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Study to establish Covid-19 impact

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Agriculture policy think-tank, the Malawi Agricultural Policy Advancement and Transformation Agenda (Mwapata), in conjunction with the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet), Thursday kick started a two-month study to assess the potential effects of Covid-19 on the country’s agri-food systems.

The study comes at a time the government has announced measures to help the country cope with Covid-19 which include social distancing, closure of all central markets and regulation of opening times of local markets.

The three-phased study will inform policy makers on how players along the agricultural value chains are being affected or likely to be affected, as well as examine the enduring effects of the pandemic.

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Mwapata Executive Director, Sloans Chimatiro, said government needs evidence-based guidance to quickly design policies that effectively mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 that threaten to disrupt supply chains and livelihoods.

Chimatiro said this is likely to result in strained livelihoods in the rural and urban areas, higher food prices, and severe economic fallout of employees in the agricultural sector.

“The first phase of the study will involve compilation of Covid-19 facts in Malawi; government policy responses; potential effects of the diseases and the response measures; assessment of the potential fiscal responses and budgetary implications; vulnerability factors-aspects that are likely to exacerbate the impacts of Covid-19; and resilience factors—feature that are likely to help the country cope or minimize the adverse effects of the pandemic.

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“The report from the first phase will be shared with the media in about two to three weeks’ time,” Chimatiro said.

The Mwapata chief said the second stage will be based on telephone interviews with a cross-section of major players in along the agricultural value chains to capture their voices and gather evidence on how they are being affected by Covid-19.

“The results from this phase are expected by mid-June 2020. The third phase of this study will assess the longer-term impacts of the pandemic and propose evidence-based response strategies,” Chimatiro said.

Malawi’s economy is predominantly agrarian with the agricultural and natural resource sectors contributing profoundly to employment, food and nutrition security, export earnings, and economic growth.

The Farmers Union of Malawi (Fum) on Wednesday expressed dismay over government’s decision to institute a 21 day lockdown without consulting key stakeholders, including farmers.

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