Giving Compass' Take:

•  Dr. Ijeoma Nwagwu explores the various ways that CSR organizations can strengthen the food value chain, and increase food system resiliency in Africa. 

• How can donors work with CSR organizations to expand initiatives and investments? 

• Read more about food security in Africa.

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered an unprecedented homegrown response in Africa with an outpouring of corporate philanthropy and community solidarity. For example, South Africa’s Solidarity Fund and Nigeria’s Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) have received large gifts as well as a deluge of giving from private individuals and small businesses to cushion the socioeconomic impact of social distancing measures — quarantines, curfews, stay-at-home orders — on the poor.

The private sector has created impact that African governments could never have achieved alone. Both corporate and government action to curb the spread of COVID-19 are focused on urban centers and momentary humanitarian relief. It’s too early for a full accounting of aid efforts. But I see through my work with businesses at Lagos Business School that responses to the crisis concentrate on providing food aid and cash grants to mainly urban households.

In deploying solutions and support, businesses should focus particularly on those most affected, such as poor rural farmers, and address core structural challenges that predate COVID-19 and worsen its impact now.

COVID-19 has exacerbated existing food insecurity, which already affected one fifth of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. African agriculture centers on smallholder farms, which have long experienced underinvestment and poor productivity. Farmers face challenges accessing many fundamental resources, including quality inputs (seeds and fertilizer), education through agricultural extension services, financing, storage, logistics and transport.

Momentary humanitarian assistance has value in light of immediate food security challenges. But CSR programming and investment should focus on strengthening the food value chain from its roots in mainly rural farms to the table.

Businesses, particularly those in the financial sector as well as the food and beverage industry, can through both CSR initiatives and investments:

  • Expand financing opportunities for the farmers.
  • Create access to appropriate training in, and tools for, agricultural best practices.
  • Invest in logistics, transportation and storage systems.
  • Enable greater access to retail markets at fair prices.

Read the full article about building a resilient food system in Africa by Dr. Ijeoma Nwagwu at B the Change.