2020 was a year marked by unprecedented disruptions as most of us dealt with the effects of COVID-19-associated health concerns, lockdown restrictions and economic disruption. While the Pandemic caused delays to some of GALVmed’s field work, our team and partners adapted their ways of working and demonstrated remarkable organisational resilience in the face of great uncertainty.
On behalf of our Board of Trustees and the entire GALVmed team, I would like to extend our empathy and compassion to those who are impacted by the virus and thank all staff and partners for their unfailing support and commitment in trying times.
As the leader of GALVmed, whose vision is the transformational improvement in the wellbeing and economic progression of small-scale livestock producers (SSPs) in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, it was particularly disconcerting to learn, how many people living in the southern hemisphere have suffered intense hardship due to the breakdowns of international movement and the disruption of food supply chains and informal services.
The Food Security & Nutrition in the World 2020 report estimates, that COVID-19 has added in 2020 over 100 million people to the count of 690 million worldwide experiencing hunger in 2019. According to the authors, South Asia was hardest hit, but hunger is growing fastest in sub-Saharan Africa where 57% cannot afford a nutritious diet. A study on Coronavirus impact on poor city-dwelling communities in India, Ivory Coast and Kenya revealed that the “hunger virus” had at some point shut down 58% of the informal employment sector, which represents 60-90% of the workforce in the developing world. As a result, most people surveyed worried more about their livelihoods than about their health.
In contrast, a survey among poor SSPs living in rural Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Senegal in the early days of the pandemic indicated that people worried less about food shortages than the shutdown of off-take markets and the resulting loss in revenues and purchasing power. Difficulties bringing perishable animal products such as milk and eggs to market quickly, cash shortages, and stock-outs of critical farm inputs (animal feed, veterinary medicines etc.) reduced on-farm food productivity and weakened the already fragile food system of sub-Saharan Africa further.
At the same time, entrepreneurs from low-income neighbourhoods conceived some of the most effective coping strategies and kept low-income neighbourhoods and rural communities going. But even if agility and resilience allowed most workers in the informal sector to recover some income, support is needed to rebuild supply chains. Several key actions are outlined in the “Food Security & Nutrition in the World 2020” report: improve access to supplies, improve productivity and affordability of food, facilitate trade, storage and distribution, and support the shift to sustainable agriculture and healthier food habits.
Applied to the new GALVmed2030 Strategy, this translates into improving access to critically needed animal health care products through product research and development, improving distribution of veterinary medicines, and increasing SSPs’ access to health information. I am hopeful that concerted global efforts will eventually control the COVID-19 Pandemic but in the meantime, efforts to build robust, functioning supply chains for farm inputs and outputs in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia must continue. GALVmed and its partners will double efforts to bring quality veterinary medicines to the market to contribute to the recovery of animal production and the restorations of farm income and food supply.
I look forward to working with our existing and future partners, funders, employees, and customers during this new, more hopeful, 2021 to overcome the COVID-19-related setbacks to local livestock value chains and “build back better”.
Dr Carolin Schumacher