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 late 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 was already on the rise for several years before the pandemic, devastating the lives of 690 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.

There are worrying reports of COVID-19 taking hold among rural populations, where poverty, undernourishment and lack of access to essential healthcare make the population especially vulnerable 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.

We have received multiple reports of supply chain interruptions affecting agricultural production in some of our beneficiary countries. At the same time, small-scale farmers, with the support of IFAD and governments, are proving key actors to guarantee access to food for local populations amid the disruptions food systems are suffering. 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 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.

IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility

June 2019

Given the magnitude of the challenge presented by this crisis, IFAD has launched a multi-donor COVID-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) to improve the resilience of rural livelihoods by ensuring timely access to inputs, information, markets and liquidity.

Related news

Dutch funding to IFAD will help avert COVID-19 food crisis

November 2020 - NEWS
As more people spiral into hunger and poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Netherlands has stepped up its funding to IFAD to help avert a rural food crisis.

Historic statement by Public Development Banks signals greater commitment to tackle global hunger and poverty

November 2020 - NEWS

For the first time in history, today 13 Public Development Banks (PDBs) made a joint commitment to strengthen investments in food and agriculture in the context of a global pandemic and a changing climate.

Governments need to halt the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on rural women, says IFAD President on International Day of Rural Women

October 2020 - NEWS
Our food supply is at risk if we don’t start prioritizing rural women during this pandemic, said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD in a strong call to governments to increase their investments in rural women.

Related blogs

Fighting food waste in China: Local efforts, global effects

September 2020 - BLOG
Reflecting on the fundamental role that sustainable food production and consumption plays in promoting food security and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

IFAD country programmes adapt to the COVID-19 crisis: Updates from the Asia-Pacific region

September 2020 - BLOG
The scale of the challenge has become ever more daunting across the region. 

Stepping up rural finance to support smallholder farmers in Zambia

June 2020 - BLOG
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating disruption - but sometimes offers opportunities for innovative solutions for rural farmers.

Related stories

Idris and Sabrina Elba call for investments in rural agriculture to fight rising hunger

October 2020 - STORY
For Idris Elba, returning to Sierra Leone late last year was about two things: reconnecting with his roots and learning about the challenges facing the country where his father was born, so that he could become a better advocate for its people

“Cashroots” movement builds community resilience in the Solomon Islands

October 2020 - STORY
Simon Chottu works hard and plays hard. An events manager by trade, he’s spent the last few years hosting hip-hop parties and organizing music events and competitions across the South Pacific. 

Rural women: The key to building back better in a post-COVID world

October 2020 - STORY

In times of crisis, rural women are the key that holds families and rural communities together – and in times like these, they need our support more than ever.