Dealing with Covid-19 in rural Africa: Lessons from previous crises
This brief (PDF) by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) summarises insights from a study which examines the lessons that can be drawn from previous crises to inform responses to Covid-19 in rural Africa. It addresses two main questions: 1. What might the consequences be of disease, and responses to it, on agriculture, rural livelihoods, food systems and food security? 2. What lessons on dealing with those consequences can be drawn from previous crises? How Covid-19 and responses to it will unfold in rural Africa is uncertain. Agricultural output may fall, as may household incomes. Food supply chains may be disrupted, leading to rising food insecurity. Rural livelihoods need to be sustained and food systems kept running. Effects may be moderate rather than severe: farming and food systems are used to coping with shocks. Impacts will be highly uneven between individuals and households. Those most affected will need support, for example through cash transfers. Other health crises show how difficult it is to get public responses right when so much is uncertain. Three mistakes are commonly made in early reactions: early responses can be misconceived; livelihoods tend to be sidelined in medical interventions; and overreacting in decision-making can make things worse. Management of crises thus needs to be adaptive, informed by timely evidence from the ground, with active engagement with local, affected communities. In terms of what to do, three priorities stand out: sustain rural livelihoods as far as possible, maintain food systems, and protect those most affected. On a brighter note, recovery from previous crises has often been quick and strong, even when the measures taken have been quite modest.