FAO au Sénégal

Senegal: The "Household Food Basket" initiative has been launched to respond to COVID-19

(c) FAO/Yacine Cissé

Protecting local food systems and improving food and nutrition security for 300 000 vulnerable people in rural, urban and peri-urban areas

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Equipment (MAER), with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has officially launched the "household food basket" initiative to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in Senegal.

Since the appearance of the first positive case of COVID-19 in Senegal on March 2, 2020, the State has continued to multiply measures to curb the spread of the virus in the country. The President of the Republic, Macky Sall, decreed a set of strong measures, among which the State of emergency limiting exchanges between regions, the prohibition of crowd gatherings leading to the closure of some rural markets, and the curfew.

These measures have real negative consequences on the production capacities of small-scale producers and the selling of their products. Nearly 1 million chickens and more than 5 200 tons of market produce are suffering due to difficulties in accessing the markets and more than 1 200 women are no longer able to sell their milk production. In addition, the cessation of exports has caused a decline in the fishing sector, which provided 16% of total revenues from national exports in 2018.

Food and sustainable agriculture have tremendous potential to revitalize the rural landscape, ensure inclusive growth and bring about positive change among the affected small producers. More and more efforts are needed to ensure the proper functioning of food value chains and to promote the production and availability of nutritious, diversified and safe food for all. In doing so, it is important to prioritize the health of consumers and workers and good health measures such as testing, social distancing and other hygiene best practices.

According to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment, Mr. Moussa Baldé, “at this stage, it is difficult to measure the real impacts on public health, on the economy, the environment, and on the livelihoods of populations.”

He believes that we must “ask ourselves some questions about the food implications for the Senegalese people, and also contribute to the overall reflection on the resilience and sustainability of our food systems in the response to COVID-19 and post COVID-19.”

Local production for food assistance to 300 000 people

The “household Food basket” initiative is part of the implementation of the United Nations response plan. It aims to protect food supply chains and local producers, particularly women and young people, in order to provide food assistance to Senegalese households that could be more affected by a general population lockdown during this pandemic. The initiative contributes to improving the food and nutritional security of vulnerable households located in rural, urban and peri-urban areas which have been negatively affected by the lockdown.

Small-scale farmers living in rural areas of developing countries are much more threatened by food insecurity due in particular to their low incomes. It would be tragic if this problem were to be exacerbated and farmers’ ability to produce food reduced, at a time when we are trying to maintain a stable food supply. Children, women and young people are the targets of the "household food basket" initiative, which aims to protect local production and facilitate crop consumption. It will improve access to varied and diversified food and it will strengthen the nutritional status of 300 000 people, around 37 500 vulnerable households. This initiative will support their financial capacities through unconditional cash transfers and help reduce their exposure to COVID-19 by breaking the chain of possible contamination at the food provisioning stage, i.e. when visiting markets, street tables, canteens, etc. Thanks to this initiative, the economic profitability of the activities of at least 1000 women producers will also improve.

Beneficiary households will be selected from the single national register and by community targeting, which will be based on the experience of the General Delegation for Social Protection and National Solidarity (DGPSN), and the single register in districts and villages.

“The household food basket is a bridge between producers who are unable to sell their food products and households which are food and nutrition insecure”, explained the Coordinator of the FAO Sub-Regional Office for West Africa and FAO Representative in Senegal, Gouantoueu Robert Guei.

“The household food basket program is right in line with our initiative called “women are part of the solution”. Women are among the small producers as well but they will also be beneficiaries”, said Oulimata Sarr, Regional Director at UN Women West and Central Africa.

“The response to COVID-19 is not just health. We must take care to protect women and girls affected by falling incomes, increased tensions within households and exposed to the risk of gender-based violence”, argued the UNFPA Resident Representative, Cécile Compaoré Zoungrana.

Acting together to slow down COVID-19

FAO, UN Women and UNFPA have initiated a joint action aimed at strengthening the resilience of vulnerable populations, especially children, women and young people. These sister UN agencies have decided to contribute nearly XOF 450 million to strengthen food systems through this great initiative. To guarantee the coherence of the interventions, the program implementation will be ensured through strategic partnerships with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Equipment and the Ministry of Women, Family and Gender.