Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has pledged funds to help avert a potential food crisis in some of the world’s most vulnerable rural communities in the wake of COVID-19. This was announced by the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on 3 September.
Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of IFAD, says an amount of SEK 50 million (approximately US$5.7 million) will be committed to IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility, launched in April, by Idris and Sabrina Elba, IFAD goodwill ambassadors. Houngbo says the facility is supporting small-scale farmers and rural producers to continue to grow and sell food despite COVID-19 restrictions in movement and trade by providing timely access to agricultural inputs, information, markets and liquidity. “We would like to thank Sweden for its commitment to achieving a world without poverty and hunger. The funds will assist rural producers, particularly women, to continue making food available to the markets ensuring the COVID-19 pandemic does not escalate into a lingering food crisis,” he says.
Carin Jämtin, director-general at SIDA, says in the midst of the pandemic we need to support sustainable food production to reduce poverty and achieve zero hunger by 2030 with small-scale farmers in the frontline needing assistance now. She says Sweden also committed SEK 40 million (approximately US$4.6 million) to IFAD’s Financing Facility for Remittances.
“This aims to help maximise impact of remittances and diaspora investment on rural development, accelerate transformation of remittance markets through new technologies and promote financial inclusion so families receiving remittances use funds productively. Remittance flows, often a lifeline for rural families in the developing world, are projected to decline by about 20% this year due to migrant workers’ loss of employment worldwide and reduced access to transfer operators caused by COVID-19 restrictions,” she says.
According to the director-general, about 80% of the world’s poorest and most food-insecure people live in rural areas with around 135 million people recently categorised as facing acute food insecurity and malnutrition. She says it is estimated this number could nearly double before the end of the year due to the impacts of COVID-19. Movement restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus left many small-scale producers without access markets to sell produce or to buy seeds or fertilizer, while transport and border closures adversely affected rural areas and disrupted food systems. The most vulnerable include daily labourers, small businesses and informal workers, mostly women and young people.
“Sweden is a founding member of IFAD and is one of the 36 members of the IFAD executive board. It has committed more than US$471 million to the fund and contributed substantially to building the resilience of more 30 million rural people with a specific focus on helping small-scale farmers adapt to climate change,” says Jämtin.