Agroecology Knowledge Hub

COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems: symptoms, causes, and potential solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic shows that health and food systems, and the people underpinning them, have been “under-valued and under-protected” for years – according to the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food).

But while COVID-19 has exposed critical weaknesses and inequalities, “the crisis has given a glimpse of new, more resilient ways of feeding communities”. In a new communiqué taking stock of 100 days of the pandemic, IPES-Food points to a perfect storm at the heart of the COVID-19 crisis:

• Industrial agriculture is driving habitat loss and creating ample conditions for viruses to emerge and spread – more than 70% of the infectious diseases that have emerged in humans since the 1940s can be traced to animals.

• Millions of people live permanently on the cusp of hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty.

Before COVID-19 hit, 820 million people were already under-nourished, with 2 billion experiencing food insecurity. A global recession will hit the vulnerable hardest.

The Panel calls for three structural reforms to build resilience to future shocks:

• Build agroecological food systems – agroecology means resilience through genetic diversity and the restoration of ecosystems and habitats. It reduces exposure to trade disruptions and supply chain bottlenecks. Experts estimate that, already, 30% of farms worldwide have redesigned production systems around agroecological principles.

• Food systems for the public good – a new pact between state and society. What started as a crisis response must turn into lasting governance for wellbeing and sustainability.

• Reform global food systems governance – use upcoming international milestones, from the COP26 climate conference to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, to put sustainable and resilient food systems at the top of the agenda.

Photo Credit: IPES Food

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Year: 2020
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Content language: English
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Type: Policy brief/paper
Organization: IPES Food

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