Land & Water

Pandemic Incident Action Checklist for the Agri-Food Value Chain

Enhancing Access to Data and Use of Incident Action Checklists

Workers across the agricultural value chain are essential workers and therefore require tailored-made country response plans to COVID-19. To mitigate the pandemic’s impact on food systems, context-specific interventions are to be designed, implemented and monitored to maintain food production and value-chains active from farm level to end users. To begin with, data are needed at all stages in the process of a value chain followed by an “incident action checklist” as part of response plans that can help minimize disruptions to a food system during a pandemic. The development, implementation and monitoring of adequate interventions can be assessed with farm level and value chain level data followed by an “incident action checklist” developed to better respond and recover from the pandemic.

Tools to Support Assessments and Incident Action Checklist

Farm Level Data

The first step is to assess context specific smallholder farm needs within a value chain based on their characteristics such as farm type and/or typology – these vary and are dependent on local context. Assessing these characteristics can help identify needs to better respond to the pandemic. Family farms are extremely vulnerable to shocks. Estimates indicate that family farms operate about 75 percent of the world's agricultural land – the vast majority are small-scale family farms of which 95 percent have a land area equal to or below 5ha.

At farm level, FAO’s World Agriculture Watch (WAW) initiative offers a comprehensive approach and tools to examine, analyze and monitor farm level changes (see Figure 1).  WAW collects data on all types of farms including second hand information on large scale agriculture, but it pays particular attention to family farms. WAW’s data can help identify disruptions at production level and develop  evidence-based tailor-made respone plans. Data includes: sex-disagregated data, adaptation needs of smallholder farmers after COVID-19, and monitoring of identified farm-systems globally.

Value Chain Data

Value chain analyses on various agriculture sectors can help asses value chain needs considering economic, social and environmental dimensions depending on data needs and based on context. Beyond farm level, WAW data can be complimented with value chain analysis tools such as the European Union’s Value Chain Analysis for Development (VCA4D): The goal of VCA4D methodology is to provide decision-makers with a set of information that relates to sustainable development strategies. This can be done by producing evidence-based elements (supported by indicators measured quantitatively or based on expert assessments) allowing to answer to a set of specific questions. A VCA works with stakeholders and can help in decision making by assessing appropriate indicators, setting up baselines or informing on the changing situation of the actors related to the intervention.

Incident Action Checklist

A pandemic Incident Action Checklist can be developed and distributed throughout the value chain based on identified needs and target sector. An Incident Action Checklist is a tool that can help the agriculture sector respond to and recover more quickly from the current pandemic and it can help identify impacts on various scenarios throughout an agricultural value chain (see Box 1.) 

Box 1. Content of Pandemic Incident Action Checklist

Section 1: Actions to be taken to Prepare for a Pandemic: Identify farm typology, value chain stakeholders, and develop a set of questions such as: essential roles and responsibilities, continuity operations programme, training needs, awareness raising, equipment needed, protective gear requirements, among others. Develop actions at employee and operational levels;

Section 2: Actions to be taken to Recover from a Pandemic: this section can include an assessment of lessons learned to document effective interventions. The section can also set in place a monitoring plan.

Benefits of an Incident Action Checklist

  • Incident action checklists can have multiple benefits and are usually developed for emergency preparedness response and recovery activities;
  • Developing a checklist can help with the planning and set-up of a response team to avoid disruptions.
  • In the agriculture sector, incident action checklists can be developed to address specific challenges that may hamper business continuity along the value-chain; 
  • Incident checklists can also be developed focusing on a particular topic such as addressing water management during a pandemic;
  • They can be useful for national and local authorities to collect information to develop more effective response plans based on necessities and areas where intervention might be needed; 
  • Incident checklists can also be supportive in assigning roles and more effective communication amongst governments, stakeholders and the affected populations.

Case studies

WAW pilot project in El Salvador

WAW helped identify the differences between an average size of family farms and other segments of Salvadoran agriculture. Family business farms, for example, have an average size of 121.39 manzanas (mz), whereas family farms average 1.73 mz. A WAW pilot project concluded that the biggest difference is in the corporate farm segment, where holdings have an average size of 523.65 mz. This has a direct correlation to farm income, which jumps from an average US$7 433 for family farmers to US$10 190 for family business farms and to US$2 780 000 for corporate farms. In addition to that general characterization, a survey in the Oriente Region in 2019, showed that diversified farms can better cope with climate change and other challenges. A shift form usual grain production, requires specific investments and support. Access to this data can help develop a tailor-specific response plan to COVID-19. As in many parts of the world, Salvadorian family farms are heavily involved in food production, and they are essential workers.

VCA4D in Mali

VCA4D assessed rice production systems in Mali. Rice cultivation is dependent on water supply, resulting in variations of productivity levels. Malians consume more than 80 kg of rice per person per year. The share of rice in total cereal consumption is increasing and it currently at 35 percent. Therefore, any eventual disruption to this value chain as a result of COVID-19 could result in food insecurity. The analysis found that the rice value chain is economically sustainable, competitive and contributes to inclusive growth, however, it faces several risks to sustainability - the main one being linked to water availability as well as risk of price fluctuation on the international market and phytosanitary risks. VCA4D also found that rice workers are under-remunerated and are vulnerable in the event of an illness or accident. In the case of COVID_19, this vulnerability would be heightened 

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