Food for the cities programme

City region food systems in Antananarivo, Madagascar: A sustainable approach to respond to COVID-19 outbreak


Photo credit: FAO Madagascar 


By Carmen Zuleta Ferrari, FAO coordinator of CRFS programme in Madagascar and Vololontsoa Volatiana Razafindratoanina, Regional Director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries for the Analamanga Region




Madagascar is repeatedly confronted with major epidemics provoking important health and socio-economic consequences such as the epidemics of malaria, dengue, chickungunya, or plague. Each year, the Malagasy Government and local institutions invest in the monitoring of malaria outbreaks, influenza, cholera, polio and other viruses. Data allows the Malagasy authorities to predict the magnitude of impacts from diseases across the country, but also to report causes attributed to inappropriate strategies and drug stock-outs. Additionally, each year the Malagasy territory is exposed to important risks related to climate change (cyclones and heavy droughts), which lead to major challenges such as food insecurity and food penuries.


Impact on the local food system

Since the beginning of 2020, like most countries, Madagascar has been exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. As of 14 April 2020, 108 cases have been confirmed, yet no deaths have been registered. However, given the global impact observed in most countries, the Malagasy authorities have decided to work hard in its risk reduction and preparedness strategy by joining partial global lockdown measures to avoid the spread of the infection in the Capital City Region (Analamanga). According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Regional Direction, measures are already causing strong impacts in the local agriculture sector, especially for main food value chains within the area of the country (Antananarivo urban areas) most impacted by the pandemic. Most of the country’s food commodities that are produced within the region and the country, pass through the capital city the main retail, stock and distribution centre daily.


Therefore, the Malagasy Government has imposed night curfews (from 8 PM to 5 AM) and partial lockdown has restricted market trade to half a day (until 12 PM). These measures have provoked inevitable challenges to the current food system, mainly to producers of perishable products such as milk, vegetables, fruits and eggs (45 days). The amount of products sold have decreased because farmers can only trade during morning hours. Not being able to conserve or process fresh products, farmers are facing strong difficulties due to production losses and reduced sales. Other main challenges are related to mobility restrictions of food transportation leading to traffic congestion issues.


Additionally, agriculture-related problems have limited access to supplies such as seeds and fertilizers, which will cause product shortages (eggs, chicken, milk, etc.) in the future. Many producers may not be able to continue their activities without these inputs, which will soon increase  prices in local markets. Thus, restricting food access for the vulnerable and middle-class, leading to food insecurity and under nutrition. As a consequence, not being able to rely on state support or financial institutions, farmers may have to abandon their income-generating activities contributing to economic crises.


Measures to cope with challenges

The Malagasy Government has decided to make the food chain strategy a main priority, making a great effort to find immediate solutions to avoid irreversible economic impacts.


Solutions include identifying potential production areas within the city region for chickens, eggs, milk, and vegetables, measuring their production capacity and creating a product flow diagram (identification of territorial needs / quantity needed per day). For the milk industry, negotiations with the private sector are being held in order to buy from dairy smallholders, and facilitate product conservation by transforming these products into cheese and other dairy products.


As for the egg industry, a proposed solution is to crack eggs and freeze them to be sold later in periods of shortage. In the chicken industry, solutions related to freezing can be set up as well, and main actions are being led to support operators to have access to financial help.


Regarding retail markets, discussions and negotiations with the Mayor of Antananarivo are being held to prioritize the creation of markets for local products (produced in the city region). These would target middle and upper class who can afford paying commodities at slightly higher prices and enhance producers to keep quality standards related to production (organic or agro-ecological practices). Such markets would be associated to setting up stocking centres within the limits of the urban area. Markets would be linked to processing centres (transformation, conservation, production of animal food, composting centres, etc.), and enable faster food distribution, and access to inputs for farmers and producers.An effort is being done to enhance online sales (local products), and supply other regions in the country already suffering from food shortages such as poor and vulnerable populations with food banks and restaurants. However, such actions require communication investments, and special infrastructure development (stocking, stands, equipment, etc.). The needed financial resources are already estimated but there is an urgent need for funds and subsidies.



The Malagasy Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry’s Regional Direction for Analamanga, the regional government and the City of Antananarivo have created a consortium to operationalize the City Region Food Systems (CRFS) approach proposed by FAO and RUAF partners (the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems). The approach was committed to create a city region food strategy that focuses on the reinforcement of food system resilience to climate change adversities. The CRFS approach can now help set out priorities to design and implement a « post-COVID-19 » strategy which may serve as an effective tool to reinforce food system resilience.


Several points can be capitalized on, such as food flow mapping, determining each product quantity and tracing the role of each player involved in the chain. Actors engaged in transportation and distribution can become official actors in the food chain, providing solutions to ensure food distribution in periods of crisis. There is a link on what the government wants to implement to reduce COVID-19 impacts and the improvement of the food system in response to climate change and other epidemic vulnerabilities.


COVID-19 outbreak has become an opportunity to urge decision-makers to put the CRFS approach into the agenda of priorities to enhance the food system resilience. If well implemented, good practices will be capitalised in favour of a multi-sector food strategy, contributing to a more sustainable, economic and social approach for the benefit of the food system of Antananarivo city region and the whole national territory.


References and related Press review: