Skip to Content
X

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the most recently discovered coronavirus. The outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, has rapidly spread across the world, profoundly disrupting fundamental activities we all depend on, including agriculture and food systems – and endangering all those who depend on it as their livelihood.

The coronavirus pandemic is a global emergency affecting all countries, requiring immediate and sustained international action. While mitigating the terrible human and economic toll worldwide is rightly uppermost in our minds, we are also gravely concerned about the underlying problems this emergency exposes, especially for those most at risk for severe consequences – older people, poor households, the undernourished, and those who live in remote rural areas without access to services or help. These problems heighten the risks of the current pandemic and must not be neglected.

Some 736 million people currently live in extreme poverty, which is a root cause of many global problems, from ill health to social unrest to migration. Meanwhile, hunger already devastates the lives of more than 820 million people, not only robbing them of a future but weakening their immunity and health – a more dangerous combination than ever in the present crisis. Food insecurity and poverty are most severe among rural marginalized groups, including women and youth.

It is currently unclear to what extent COVID-19 will take hold among rural populations. However, given that we focus on the poorest of the poor, we fear that the impact of COVID-19 on our beneficiary groups is likely to be especially pronounced.

Short-term crises can feed off long-term problems, gaps, underinvestment and vulnerabilities.

The spread of illness can devastate poor rural communities and small-scale food producers who already face challenges such as weak resilience, poor nutrition and limited access to resources and services. Many countries depend on these communities for their national food security. Nevertheless, the pandemic and related disruptions of trade, travel and markets could reduce food production and availability.

Although it is still too early to discern the full effects of the outbreak, we are already receiving reports of supply chain interruptions affecting agricultural production in some of our beneficiary countries. More broadly, the crisis is expected to have profound effects on the global economy, which will certainly affect small-scale rural producers on a much broader scale.

Mitigating the effects of the outbreak involves delivering support directly to the populations who need it most.

Around 63 per cent of the world’s poorest people work in agriculture, the overwhelming majority on small farms. Most of the poorest, hungriest and most marginalized people live in rural areas, and that is where the development community now needs to focus its mid- to long-term efforts.

Key messages

  • COVID-19 is a global pandemic that is already having tangible effects on the agriculture sector.
  • In addition to its potential health effects, COVID-19 threatens to profoundly affect the livelihoods of poor rural farmers who depend on agriculture.
  • Given that we focus on the poorest of the poor, we fear that the impact of COVID-19 on our beneficiary groups is likely to be especially pronounced.
  • Investments in rural agricultural programmes can help people become more self-reliant, mitigate the impact of severe events, increase rural prosperity, ensure more sustainable food systems and food security, and create greater resilience in fragile states. 
  • Economic growth in agriculture is two to three times more effective at reducing poverty and food insecurity than growth in other sectors. Investments in small-scale agriculture can help revive food production and create jobs following a crisis and enable rural communities to recover.

For the latest information on novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), please refer to the World Health Organization.

Related news

El FIDA invertirá USD 554 millones para apoyar la recuperación de la agricultura familiar en América Latina y el Caribe tras el impacto de la COVID-19

May 2020 - NEWS
El FIDA destinará USD 554 millones de dólares para sostener la agricultura familiar en América Latina y el Caribe durante la crisis de la COVID-19 y para contribuir a su recuperación y modernización una vez el impacto de la pandemia haya pasado.

IFAD’s response to the COVID-19 crisis - protecting and enhancing rural resilience

April 2020 - NEWS

The COVID-19 pandemic is far more than a health crisis: it is affecting societies and economies. IFPRI estimates, for example, that 140 million additional people could fall into extreme poverty this year as a result of the virus.

UN Goodwill Ambassadors Idris and Sabrina Elba launch appeal for IFAD’s $200 million coronavirus relief fund for rural communities

April 2020 - NEWS
Actor, filmmaker and humanitarian Idris Elba and actress, model and activist Sabrina Dhowre Elba today launched a new global coronavirus relief fund on behalf of IFAD to prevent economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic from triggering a global hunger and food crisis.

Related blogs

On the International Day for Biological Diversity, commitment to sustainable agriculture is more important than ever

May 2020 - BLOG
This year’s theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity is “Our Solutions are in Nature.”

COVID-19 response must target African agriculture and the rural poor

May 2020 - BLOG
Africa has so far escaped the worst health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the continent looks like it could be the worst hit from the economic fallout of the crisis.

Five ways organizations can help countries build agile and inclusive responses to COVID-19

May 2020 - BLOG

Challenges and opportunities are different in different places, for different food products and for different people. How, then, can we enhance local capacity to respond to this emergency in an agile and inclusive manner?

Related stories

Planting seeds in the new normal: Rural women in Pakistan amid COVID-19

May 2020 - STORY

In rural Pakistan, women are important partners in agricultural development. They perform a variety of crucial tasks, including weeding and tilling land, planting seeds, collecting farmyard manure and harvesting. They are also responsible for cleaning, drying and storing grains.

Bees, biodiversity and COVID-19 - World Bee Day

May 2020 - STORY
Bees support countless ecosystems, bolster biodiversity, anchor food chains and help ensure humans’ agricultural security. Not bad for insects no bigger than a paperclip.

Fast and flexible: IFAD’s first successful project restructuring protects smallholders in Bosnia and Herzegovina

May 2020 - STORY
The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted agricultural and food systems around the world, along with the livelihoods and food security of the poorest rural communities – precisely the groups of people whom IFAD concentrates its efforts on.