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CORE-Africa (July 2020-June 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 distil lessons from the above areas and sharpen strategies, methods, and practices moving forward. The pandemic thus also accelerates learning from implementation across individual projects on vital topics for DGIS policy and portfolio.

Project updates

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

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

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

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Nine 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 also been reported. It is expected that this trend will continue and may even expand, especially if countries re-apply transport/lockdown measures. With inclusion and climate adaptation under pressure, further attention to resilience of farmer services is critical.

Under this theme, we are initially focusing on deep engagements with CRAFT project. Through a collaboration with the Springfield Centre, we support the important and in-depth methodological work required on assessment of (climate) service markets and service delivery models. Smaller actions are foreseen 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

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

Thus, resilience of (urban) consumer market channels resonated among lead projects as a priority serving urban and local, diversifies, and nutritious market segments. However, it is a relatively new workstream. This is therefore an important area of innovation.

We are initially focusing on deep engagement with a specific demand from BRIDGE Ethiopia. In parallel, strong cases and general programme strategies for strengthening consumer market channels will be developed, with specific attention to the food value chains the lead projects are working in. Insights and methods developed in this way, with BRIDGE and in general, are expected to resonate with other projects. Smaller engagements are foreseen with TIDE and others. 

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 reduce a) contribution to the spread of (the) disease(s), b) the negative effects of the government COVID-19 measures and dynamics on the performance of the food system and specific value chains.

The integration of hygiene into agricultural value chains is challenging, as it requires new approaches and partners. Not withstanding these challenges, there is a general policy recognition that hygiene integration will be increasingly important for the future of agriculture value chains.

Within this theme, we support project-level initiatives to integrate hygiene into agriculture projects. Several projects have shown interest in experimenting with institutionalising hygiene measures in relation to specific ‘high risk nodes’ in the value chains, including PADANE, HortInvest and CRAFT Kenya.

We also explore generic approaches to the institutionalisation of hygiene integration for existing and future programs. This will gather evidence, shape results logics and collect approaches and experiences available, and bring these together in a strategic framework. 

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 expectations are high, the D4Ag area is also immature in various ways. Structural challenges are: 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 is focusing 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. Through hands-on support to individual projects, we seek to help make better choices on applications and develop stronger strategies towards scaling/accessibility as well as structural and governance challenges 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 more analytical approach. This reflects the development from direct response to addressing structural issues/causes. Our practical methods 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. Interest in the pure COVID-oriented application has declined, and demand seems to be shifting 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.

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. 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 will also increasingly distil learnings for SNV more broadly 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 us to join forces in sharing lessons in external fora.

While some learning will be 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. For that we help produce and share knowledge/content, as well as establish interactions/sharing arrangements within SNV and beyond.

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