As the lockdowns continue worldwide and impacts of Covid-19 keep unfolding, policymakers have not only been put under pressure to make quick decisions, but also to justify their support to agriculture (as well as other sectors) from an emergency perspective. To act responsibly under the pressure of urgency, donor agencies must gain access to the best data available, including country-level and regional impacts, and modelling of likely impacts of Covid-19 on food and agriculture as quickly as possible.

On 29 April 2020, the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development hosted a virtual informal dialogue with 12 donor organisations and the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) that aimed to promote an exchange on how to better coordinate and streamline information gathering on COVID -19 implications on agriculture and food security.

CGIAR provided an overview on what needs to be done analytically in the coming months and reviewed the challenges and actions that donors can take to better coordinate information gathering. So far there are numerous themes in demand, notably the implications of COVID-19 on health systems, and the need to better analyse trends in food system resilience including food choices, consumer behavior, food markets and impacts on livelihoods. CGIAR noted that some work dealing with similar issues have already been carried out across various multilateral agencies, and this provides an opportunity to repurpose existing capacities and tools. CGIAR is currently making use of their existing portfolio and examining what to repurpose, i.e. what has already been done, what needs to be done differently, and what are the additional steps to take in this situation.

There was consensus that pressure remains high on how to get actionable policy advice on time. Due to the speed in which this crisis unfolds, all donors are facing the risk that programs take too long to be implemented and yield results, due to the scarcity and non-timeliness of available information. One consequence is that key policy decisions are missed out. It was noted that although there is a lot of evidence coming from previous crises, what can be used remains unclear, because of the level of comparability. Other analytical challenges highlighted include:

  • How to manage huge volumes of information;

  • How to better understand and track what everyone is doing;

  • How to collect and repackage information for different audiences;

  • How to access all that is going on and coordinate analysis.

The participants acknowledged the cooperation of multilateral agencies prior and during the Covid-19 pandemic and stressed the need for effective coordination within the international system, to efficiently utilise scarce funds and limit the number of bilateral projects and duplicative processes. One possible strategy for promoting effective coordination and cooperation between actors proposed was the creation of a central Covid-19 hub that will play an important role in coordinating the efforts undertaken by the broad range of organizations and institutions.

Various partners expressed interest to carry out a review of existing analytical work and promote coordinated efforts. Providing policymakers with easier access to the right information in a suitable format remains the key priority. There was also consensus to keep the discussion ongoing and create connections between this crisis and any other crises that might emerge or are already there, e.g. the climate crisis. The Global Donor Platform for Rural Development will continue to support such dialogues now and post-Covid-19.

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