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Growing impacts of shocks on Sub-Saharan Africa’s agri-food system and the mitigating role of resi

Growing impacts of shocks on Sub-Saharan Africa’s agri-food system and the mitigating role of resilience

Agriculture is a major sector in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) and is often the dominant one in many SSA economies (Jayaram et al, 2010). In 2019, agriculture alone accounted for 15 percent of the GDP of all SSA countries (World Bank, 2020) and employed 62 percent of the population (Oxford Business Group, 2021; FAO, 2020). Because a large percentage of SSA’s population are farmers, most of whom are smallholders (Lowder et al., 2016), the form of economic development needed must transform agriculture to achieve higher levels of productivity, household income and value; while leveraging such success in building other economic sectors (Jayne et al., 2020), especially the agri-food value chain.

As argued in Chapter 2, this type of economic transformation is already ongoing in SSA. The remarkable progress made in key development metrics since 2000 involved simultaneous growth in agricultural production, off-farm employment and wages, non-farm industrial output, domestic and foreign investments, and overall national output (Jayne and Sanchez, 2021; Jayne et al., 2020).

Progress in agriculture can allow skill, expertise and innovation transfer between agriculture and nonfarm sectors (Jayne and Sanchez, 2021; Jayne et al., 2020). For SSA economies to enjoy long-term sustainable growth, they must continue to leverage the transformative capacity of agriculture in growing their economies.

But agriculture is intrinsically linked to the broader agri-food system in the development of SSA economies (Diao, et al., 2010; Haggblade et al., 2010; Vroegindewey and Hodbod, 2018). The coherent functioning of the entire agri-food value chain is critical to the ability to transform African economies (Gómez and Ricketts, 2013; World Bank, 2013). On one hand, agriculture requires a thriving input supply sector including fertilizers, seeds, machinery, equipment, irrigation systems and farm support services, and their distribution and marketing (Webber and Labaste, 2009). But agriculture’s success also requires thriving market connectivity, including simple or near-farm value addition, farm and local logistics, primary processing, secondary food processing/manufacturing, packaging and logistics, warehousing and storage, food wholesale and distribution, food retail and service, and international exports and imports. The process of economic transformation requires and involves an evolving food value chain to absorb skilled labor and benefit from efficiency gains in agriculture (Tschirley, et al., 2015). The benefits of a strong synergistic relationship between agriculture and its supply chain include improved employment, income, and nutrition (Tschirley, et al., 2015; Haggblade et al., 2010).

To be sure, we reiterate the importance of a “whole of the agri-food system” approach to economic transformation. For agriculture to be productive, progressively mature, and stable - a requirement for sustainable development – it requires a stable and reliable food value chain. On the other hand, for these food value chains to thrive and create significant employment and income for the population, they require a stable, reliable, productive, and thriving agricultural sector. Various studies predict major growth in food demand due to a growing overall population, middle class population, household incomes and urbanization (see FAO, 2018; Bjørndal et al., 2016; and Zhou and Staatz, 2016). The demand for processed foods, meats, fruits, vegetables, and similar value-added products will grow (Reardon et al., 2014), creating significant opportunities for growth in the entire value chain. With coherent strategies, the combined agri-food sector is therefore poised to drive the transformation of SSA economies.

General concerns about the sustainability of Sub-Saharan Africa growth and development

Despite the growth experiences and potential of many SSA countries, it is questionable whether such growth is sustainable. For example, the fluctuating and somewhat unstable average annual growth rate of GDP per capita (see figure 1) raises questions about future sustainability, resilience, and self-reliance. Also, recent SSA growth has involved little industrialization and somewhat more direct leap-frogging from agriculture to the service sector (Rodrik, 2015; Diao et al. 2017), raising questions about whether the broader food and agribusiness supply chains can be leveraged together to achieve growth and economic transformation in SSA. Furthermore, while many SSA countries experienced improved governance, political liberalization, fiscal/monetary policies, public expenditure on social services, domestic and foreign direct investment, and enhanced overall policy environment (Rodrik, 2014; Jayne et al, 2018), the combination of infrastructure deficits, limited institutional capacity in policy development and governance, and legacy issues from the period of colonization (Calderon and Serven, 2010) cast some doubt on whether Africa’s growth could ever match that of its Asian counterparts (Collier and Gunning, 1999; Artadi and Sala i-Martin, 2003).

In addition to the above, several SSA countries face added problems resulting from their over-reliance on the oil, gas, minerals or other natural resource sectors, exposure to exchange rate fluctuations, and reliance on food exports (Erokhin and Gao, 2020). Jayne et al. (2020) demonstrated that the pace of economic transformation in resource-rich SSA lags behind those of Lower-Middle-Income (LMI) and Upper-Middle-Income (UMI) countries. This suggests that resource wealth distracts from economic transformation.

Growing concerns about various emerging extraneous shocks and stressors

The growing incidence of various extraneous shocks and stressors (Holleman et al., 2017) since the year 2000 is an additional reason to worry about the sustainability of SSA’s recent growth. These shocks and stressors emanate from a variety of sources including: climate change; natural hazards or shocks; terrorism, communal clashes, and other forms of conflict; and macro-economic and health sources. Next, we provide preliminary examples to highlight the growing importance of these shocks and stressors and the need to be proactive in avoiding them and/or mitigating their effects.

In 1990, there were 46 disaster occurrences in SSA resulting in 2,182 deaths and affecting 20.46 million people (CRED, 2021) in the region. However, by 2020, these had increased to 110 disaster occurrences resulting in 2,091 deaths and affecting 23.29 million people (CRED, 2021). Figure 2 presents graphical illustrations of the growing incidence and impacts of natural disaster occurrences alone. The relative constancy of the number of deaths due to natural disasters despite the growing number of incidents and people affected may reflect improved preparedness for natural disasters and growing resilience due to a growing number of disaster management agencies. While evidence of the economy-wide impacts of natural disasters is limited due to the geographic concentration of the affected places, these impacts cannot be totally ignored.

Figure 3.4 presents graphical illustrations of the growing incidence of armed conflicts. In 1997, there were 2,826 incidents of armed conflicts which resulted in 20,118 fatalities (ACLED, 2020; Raleigh et al, 2010). By 2020, these numbers had jumped to 23,721 incidents and 36,154 fatalities. Specifically, the incidence of violent attacks by Fulani pastoralists across SSA also increased from 1 attack in 1997 to 695 attacks in 2020 while the number of fatalities was 0 in 1997 but 2,034 in 2020 (ACLED, 2020). Farmer-herder conflicts are now major sources of angst for many agricultural communities in affected countries.

A growth trend in macro-economic shocks is not discernable for SSA. According to Rasaki and Malikane (2015), macro-economic shocks affecting

SSA economies can be classified into external (foreign) and internal (domestic). Major external shocks include foreign debt exposure, exchange rate fluctuations, trade shocks, foreign interest variation and major commodity prices shifts (e.g., oil and natural resources), while major internal shocks include domestic inflation and money supply shocks (Rasaki and Malikane, 2015; Houssa, Mahimont and

Otrok, 2013). Evidence from Rasaki and Malikane (2015), Houssa et al., (2013), and others suggests that macro-economic shocks significantly influence not only output fluctuations in African economies, but also livelihoods, poverty, and food security.

A growth trend in health-related shocks is also not palpable. However, because health systems in SSA have been historically weak due to chronic structural, governance, and leadership problems (Gilson et al., 2017), when major health and shocks such as epidemics emerge, already-stressed systems are further perturbed. For example, in 2013, SSA experienced the onset of the Ebola virus epidemic. By May 8th, 2016, there were 28,638 confirmed cases in six countries and 11,322 deaths from Ebola in five countries (WHO, 2019) namely, Liberia (4,809 deaths), Sierra Leone (3,956 deaths),

Guinea (2,543 deaths), Nigeria (8 deaths), and Mali (6 deaths). The Ebola crisis had devastating effects on many families and communities.

In short, evidence suggests that various shocks and stressors threaten the viability of households and enterprises up and down the food value chain in SSA countries (see Adelaja and George, 2019a; Adelaja and George, 2019b; George, Adelaja and Weatherspoon, 2020; George, Adelaja and Awokuse, 2020). As they destroy existing infrastructure and capacity and dislodge economies from their normal growth paths, they also have the potential to throw some economies in disarray with respect to leading economic indicators and can result in state fragility (Jayne et al., 2020). The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports that countries which did not meet their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are mainly those struggling with conflict, violence, and fragility (FAO et al, 2017; George, Adelaja and Weatherspoon, 2020). Similarly, the growing incidence of climate-related shocks (Hallegatte et al., 2015) exacerbates the challenges from conflict and poverty (Swinnen, 2020).

Emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic adds a whole new dimension to the growth challenges of SSA countries. As a result, many SSA economies shrank due to economic lockdown policies and resulting livelihood losses, food supply chain disruptions, and increased food insecurity (Swinnen, 2020; Thurlow, 2020; Reardon et al., 2020). McKinsey and Company, amongst others, reported major declines in agricultural export and import volumes, food retail and service operations, and associated logistics in SSA as a result of COVID-19 (Pais et al., 2020). It is too early to tell, but COVID-19 could potentially roll back some of the progress made in the last 20 years. With many national economies in stress, the capacity of governments to turn things around is constrained. Recovery will likely be long.

Growing relevance of the concept of resilience

Given the growing exposure to the shocks and stressors discussed above and their seeming unavoidability, interest in the concept of resilience in Africa’s agri-food supply chain has grown in recent years. Chapter 2 above provides details

on the definition, importance of and preliminary implications of resilience for the agri-food system value chain. In the context of the agri-food system, resilience implies responding to those shocks by building, a priori, the needed capacity to protect the viability of households and enterprises and the existing agri-food system infrastructure that they are part of. Without resilience, there is potential for the agri-food system to be severely compromised to the point where past advancements, which consumed significant resources to accomplish, are severely threatened, perhaps pushing some economies back to ground zero.

Lack of resilience translates to repeated humanitarian interventions and rebuilding. Building resilience to shocks and stressors can reduce the high human and economic costs associated with repeated humanitarian and rebuilding efforts and the associated political and public pressures. In recognition of this, agency programming around resilience has grown dramatically in the past decade. In 2018, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) renamed the Bureau for Food Security (BFS), one of its largest bureaus, to the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (BRFS). The importance of the concept of resilience is also growing in the design and implementation of development programs by national and international agencies.

A common guiding question in resilience discourse is ‘resilience of what, to what, for whom?’ (Carpenter et al., 2001; Lebel and Anderies, 2006). This approach helps bound the system under study, for example clarifying what type of food system and at what spatial, institutional, and temporal scale is of interest? It helps to determine whether one is exploring the specific resilience to a particular shock (and if so, which shock) or the general resilience to multiple shocks. It is important to acknowledge that there will be differentiated impacts of these shocks as resilience will differ for actors across the food system, and that comparison must be embedded into any analyses.

Chapter outline

The rest of this chapter is organized as follows. First, we explain the typology, incidence, geography, and political economy of specific types of shocks and stresses in SSA, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Second, we summarize the effects of these shocks and stresses on the agrifood supply chain. Third, we review evidence from extant literature on the concept of resilience and its implications for the agri-food supply chain as a shock and stress mitigator. Fourth, we briefly outline five case studies of different types of shock and ongoing efforts of governments, NGOs, and the private sector to address these shocks and restore the vibrancy of the agri-food system in the face of these shocks and stresses. We conclude by briefly highlighting some of the instruments that can be used to build resilience at various scales in the agri-food system, given that most policy instruments to deal with shocks are at the national level.

Typology, geography and the trajectory of shocks and stressors

In this section, as a prelude to reviewing the impacts of shocks and stressors on the agri-food system and the role of resilience in mitigating such impacts, we explain the nature, prevalence and geography of these shocks and stresses, as well as trends over time.

Shocks are defined as “external short-term deviations from long-term trends that have substantial negative effects on people’s current state of well-being, level of assets, livelihoods and safety” (Choularton et al., 2015). Natural hazards (including floods, droughts, pests), armed conflicts, pandemics and macro-economic volatility are examples of shocks. On the other hand, stressors are “long-term trends or pressures that undermine the stability of a system and increase vulnerability within it (Zseleczky and Yosef, 2014). Climate change, land degradation, population pressure, and protracted political instabilities are examples of stressors. Some of the key elements of a resilience framework are the measurement

of shocks and stressors, the estimation of their impacts, the identification of resilience factors, and the estimation of their mitigating impacts.

Shocks and stressors can be divided into ‘manmade’ (e.g., armed conflicts, technological disasters), ‘natural’ (e.g., droughts, earthquakes) and ‘other’ (e.g., macro-economic shocks) based on their sources (Sagara, 2018). Based on the onset and duration of the event, shocks can also be classified into acute (sudden onset, generally short duration e.g., flood, price volatility) and chronic (slow onset, generally long duration e.g., civil wars, drought) (Shimizu and Clark, 2015). Shocks and stressors can also be classified as covariate and idiosyncratic based on the number of people affected by the event. Covariate shocks directly impact a large number of people (e.g., epidemics, pest infestation), while idiosyncratic shocks affect specific individuals or households within a community (e.g., death of a family member, loss of a job) (Sagara, 2018). Shocks, which are growing in severity over time, will be the prime focus of the rest of this section of Chapter 3. The policy implications of other shocks will also be addressed.

Armed conflicts

In recent years, in terms of fatalities, injuries, and frequency, armed conflicts are the single most rapidly-growing shock in SSA. An armed conflict is defined as a contested incompatibility regarding a government and/or territory where there is use of armed force between two parties, at least one of which is the government of a state (Gleditsch et al., 2002). The number of armed conflicts has increased dramatically since the year 2000 (see Figure 3). In 2019, there were at least 15 countries facing active armed conflicts in SSA, out of which eight were lowintensity subnational armed conflicts, and seven were high-intensity armed conflicts (PRIO, 2021). Countries with ongoing high-intensity conflicts include Nigeria, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, and Cameroon. Ethiopia has also experienced conflicts but sufficient relevant data is not currently available.

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