Policy Support and Governance Gateway

Issue paper

Impact of the Ebola virus disease outbreak on market chains and trade of agricultural products in West Africa

The current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented in scale and geographical spread. It has placed serious constraints on the agriculture sector and had a significant impact on food security, rural economies and livelihoods  in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The epidemic has reduced households’ ability to produce food in crisis-hit areas as fear of contagion, quarantines and restriction of people’s movements have prevented farmers from working in their fields. Restrictions on gatherings and movements of goods and people have indeed resulted in the disruptions of agricultural products’ market chains and trade, with a dramatic impact on vulnerable populations that depend on them for their livelihoods and food security.

While the disease situation is improving over time, it is important to draw the lessons from this epidemic, providing that such outbreaks may increase in frequency and gravity if nothing is done. More specifically there is a need to assess and understand Ebola’s impacts on key agricultural market chains. In this regard, Ebola epidemic represents a unique opportunity to expand the concept of resilience to market chain systems, and identify which factors have led some market chains to be more resilient than others. This study will be Key to develop new policy and risk management interventions along market chains for possible future outbreaks in the region and prevent related long lasting impact on rural economies.

 Using the outcomes of a technical consultation meeting organized by FAO in December 2014 in Dakar, Senegal, with the support of CIRAD, and building on past studies conducted by FAO and other partners, the report presents an analysis of the impact of the EVD outbreak on agricultural market chains. Seven market chains were selected and studied based on their importance to regional food security, the risks associated with Ebola and the extent of disruptions caused by the outbreak. This includes rice, cassava, potatoes (as an example of horticultural products), cocoa, palm oil animal products, bushmeat and cocoa in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Conclusions and recommendations for restoring trade flows and ensuring the smooth functioning of markets while minimizing the risk of disease spread are also included.