Since the COVID pandemic was declared a disaster by many governments in Africa and globally, restrictions have been implemented to protect the population’s health and limit the rates of infection.
However, this has had a great and adverse effect on food systems and on agriculture production. Balanced diets have also been negatively impacted.
Agriculture was identified as an essential service very early on, allowing farmers to continue with production and other distribution-related activities. However, the restrictions had already caused serious disruptions to the food system. While food aid agencies moved in to support vulnerable households, most of the food baskets consisted of starchy foods. These foods provided energy, but they did not provide a balanced diet. In particular, there were not enough fruits and vegetables in these food baskets.
Naturally, when you have a disaster, balancing the diet is not high on the list of priorities. The focus is usually on ensuring that people get some energy into their systems. Consequently, perishable food, such as fruits and vegetables, are the first things to be removed from food baskets.
Hear Prof. Sibanda talk about the opportunities that exist to maintain a balanced diet through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Simple solutions to ensure a balanced diet are available. Good nutrition or home gardens can be established anywhere and by anyone. Each household, even those without access to land, can grow some vegetables for their own consumption. If they produce an excess, they could share produce with their neighbours and maybe even sell some.
Essentially, all that is needed is a growing medium – composted soil – either on a small piece of ground or in a container garden, which is basically a sack or a vegetable tower made of plastic. Not much water is needed, especially with container gardens. Within a matter of weeks, a household can have access to vegetables. Hence, even if shops do not have vegetables, you can depend on your own production. One of the challenges is that most households may not have access to seed. To address this challenge, those seeking to support communities during the pandemic can consider providing a starter pack of seed or seedlings.
This article is published as part of a joint campaign for World Food Day led by the ARUA-UKRI GCRF Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa) in partnership with the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), the University of Leeds’ Global Food and Environment Institute (GFEI), and the GCRF-AFRICAP Project. You can follow our campaign on Twitter @FSNetAFrica or visit our partners’ websites – University of Pretoria, GFEI, and GCRF-AFRICAP.