COVID-19 Response and Resilience Initiative for Food Value Chains in Africa (CORE-Africa)

This project is active

CORE-Africa (July 2020-September 2022) helps eight DGIS-funded projects (in Et, Ke, Ug, Tz, Ma, BF, Rw, Bu) respond quickly and adequately to COVID-19 in ways that contribute to resilience beyond the immediate shock. By boosting cross-project learning, we aim to Build Back Better, Together. We address four key structural food VC/system challenges highlighted by the pandemic:

  1. Resilience in outreach of farmer inputs & services. Due to COVID, inclusion and climate adaptation are under pressure.  
  2. Resilience of the provision of nutritious food for poor urban consumers. Has been severely impacted by the pandemic.
  3. The expectations of digital services are high. But most business models are immature, reach is patchy and enabling environment weak.
  4. Hygiene integration in food VCs is key to containing diseases and resilience of chains. But a very challenging domain practically and institutionally.

CORE works intensively with selected knowledge partners - WUR, the Springfield Centre, Bristol University, D4Ag coalition under NFP. With them, we backstop field level projects and distil lessons. These help to sharpen strategies, methods, and practices moving forward. We also seek to use the pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate learning across individual projects on vital challenges in food VC/system development.

COVID and Ag reviews

COVID-19 and agriculture review #3: understanding vulnerabilities and resilience strategies in the context of COVID-19

COVID-19 and agriculture review #2: beyond the first shock

COVID-19 and agriculture review #1: key impact, issues, systemic shocks

Project updates

Read the CORE-Africa Outlook 2021-22 (disponible en français).

CORE-Africa update #3: outlook for 2021 and beyond, March 2021

CORE-Africa update #2: Resources on COVID-19, resilience & agriculture, November 2020

CORE-Africa Update #1: Start-up, new COVID and Agriculture assessments, and more, August 2020

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CORE lead projects

Key components

Resilience of farmer inputs and services

Farmer inputs and services are essential for farmers’ production and livelihoods, and consequently for businesses along the chain and for consumers. Various disruptions to access and availability of farmer inputs and services occurred following lockdown measures, not just in various physical inputs, but also in (pre-)finance and extension services. A decline in application of GAPs (good agricultural practices) has been reported. It is expected that this trend will continue and may even expand, especially if countries re-apply lockdown measures. With inclusion and climate adaptation under pressure, further attention to resilience of farmer services is critical.

Under this theme, we are undertaking deep engagements with CRAFT project. Through a collaboration with the Springfield Centre, we support in-depth methodological work on assessment of (climate) service markets and service delivery models. Plus smaller actions with other lead projects like HortInvest. Insights and methods developed are expected to resonate with other projects later in 2021 and early 2022.

Resilience of market channels to consumers

Important shocks, disturbances, and changes in the downstream part of food value chains occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. With reduced buying capacity of consumers, the challenge to provide nutritious and affordable food for various consumer segments came to the fore, especially for those in lower income brackets.

Thus, resilience of (urban) consumer market channels resonated among the lead projects as a priority. However, for most agriculture programs serious attention to the consumer end of the chain is lacking. This is therefore an important area of innovation and programmatic learning.

We are undertaking deep engagement with BRIDGE Ethiopia and a smaller connection to existing work by TIDE Uganda. In parallel, strong cases and general programme strategies for strengthening consumer market channels are being developed in collaboration with our partner Bopinc. Insights and methods developed with BRIDGE and in general, will then build-up to approaches relevant to lead and other projects and influence the design of a next generation of projects.  

Hygiene, health and safety in agri-chains and agri-business

Our aim is to enable agriculture value chains and agri-business actors to integrate hygiene measures into daily operations and a) reduce the contribution of VCs to the spread of (the) disease(s), and b) limit the negative effects of COVID-19 related measures and dynamics on the performance of chains.

The integration of hygiene into agricultural value chains is challenging, as adherence to public health measures tends to erode over time. There is a general policy recognition that hygiene integration will be increasingly important for the future of agriculture value chains. But it requires new approaches and partners as well as a better grip on drivers and incentives.

In view of these challenges, together with our knowledge partner Bristol University, we are shaping-up a generic strategic framework for institutionalisation of hygiene integration. It brings together evidence, shapes results logics and collects available approaches and experiences. It can be used for existing as well as future projects.

At the same time, we support project-level initiatives to integrate hygiene already. PADANE Burundi, HortInvest Rwanda and CRAFT Kenya are exploring and experimenting with institutionalising hygiene measures in relation to specific ‘high risk nodes’ in the value chains.

Digitalisation for agriculture (D4Ag) solutions relevant to COVID-19

COVID-19 has incited significant growth in the demands of projects and their partners (lead businesses, cooperatives, farmers, service providers) for digitalisation (D4Ag). While overall expectations are high, the D4Ag area is also immature in various ways. Structural challenges include: a) the viability and scaling of service delivery models, b) the digital divide and access limitations (incl. digital literacy challenges), c) privacy and data ownership, and d) governance and regulation, including (pre-competitive) data infrastructure and systems.

CORE focuses on the digital divide as key challenge and the related scaling/accessibility of services. We support projects to position/act more strategically on these and are presently co-shaping a D4Ag coalition with NFP and others to jointly advocate on and address such structural challenges better.

We provide hands-on support to individual projects, in particular MODHEM+, STAMP+ and CRAFT. We help make better choices on applications and match-making between local businesses and D4AG providers. And we support developing stronger strategies towards scaling/accessibility as well as the enabling environment for digitalisation.

Rapid analytics and monitoring for adequate responses

An initial focus on rapid scanning of immediate effects at the start of CORE-Africa, is evolving to a broader analytical approach. This reflects the development from direct response to addressing structural issues/causes.

Our practical methods under Rapid Analytics have evolved, from just one to three tools:

Rapid assessments: A methodology is available for projects and has been applied in Rwanda (and Ghana) for horticulture. Demand has shifted from a pure COVID focus to a broader rapid sector system/transformation assessment. This is given attention in preparing 2 possible applications for CRAFT and potentially 2 other projects. See Rwanda's potato sector and Rwanda's horticulture sector assessments.

COVID-19 country monitoring tool: A monthly monitoring tool has been developed and implemented since Q4 2020 to enable selected country offices and CORE-Africa / SNV to better follow trends in the protracted COVID-dynamics. It particularly provides some key indicators for effects on the agriculture sector, business environment and consumers.

COVID-19 & agriculture reviews: CORE-Africa produces a regular update of available international information on implications of COVID-19 for agriculture, value chains and food systems. The reviews are compiled in collaboration with WUR and seek to keep SNV Agriculture staff and partners up-to-date on key COVID-19 related insights and discussions. The reviews’ main function is to summarise and ‘signpost’ amidst the wealth of writing on COVID and agriculture/food systems. The reviews are also important in terms of joint sense making and learning across realities in different countries and contexts.

Learning and exchange

Learning and exchange are at the heart of CORE-Africa and key to its success supporting the improvement of approaches amidst the COVID-19 crisis, across multiple large projects working on food value chains.

To avoid reinventing the wheel within each project, CORE-Africa acts as a space to exchange experiences, adequate practices and learnings between the projects. From this we increasingly distil broader learnings for SNV and for external practitioner and policy debates.

External partnerships are also a key element of CORE's learning approach. They feed-in external knowledge, make us learn together with reputed players in practical collaborations, and allow to join forces in sharing lessons in external fora.

While some learning is overarching, much of it is specific to the four components. For this, CORE drives a pragmatic learning agenda based on topics, methods, learnings and discussions emerging from each component. We help produce and share knowledge/content (blogs, reports, presentations), as well as establish interactive sharing (webinars, platforms, conferences) within SNV and beyond. External fora that we engage with include: DGIS-IGG CoPs and events, the Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP), the Sustainable Food System Summit and related interactions, the EU Practitioner Network (PN) and Private sector Working Group (PSWG) and others.

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