ICRISAT’S Response to COVID-19

A strategic guide: Working towards food security in the drylands, through COVID-19 and beyond

ICRISAT is well positioned to significantly contribute to efforts towards restoring food security in the drylands, while combating the COVID-19 pandemic-related impacts and beyond. Here is a quick guide outlining ways in which we can collaborate with our partners and influence positive outcomes for smallholder farmers.

Read the full strategy on how ICRISAT can help

Leveraging digital tools for adaptive food systems in India during the COVID-19 lockdown

A look at how digital tools and technologies have been and could be used to overcome coronavirus-related challenges to agricultural supply chains.

Despite many exemptions from lockdown, the agricultural sector in India has experienced major disruptions due to the COVID-19 crisis. Agriculture in India employs about 55% of the population and contributes roughly 17% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Therefore, functioning agricultural supply chains are necessary for the food and nutritional security of India.

Furthermore, agriculture is a key engine that, alongside health and education, has the power to propel India and other developing countries toward reaching a number of the lofty Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The question then is, how can India and the governments, in particular, intervene in agricultural value chains to help cope with the shocks caused by the coronavirus pandemic?

Read more for approaches

Hajia Salamatu Garba, Executive Director, Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), Nigeria

Over 80% smallholder farmers we work with risk losing their dry season investments. More worryingly, the skeletal visit-and-train system is the only extension service available due to lockdown. Farmers are unable to apply critical second-phase urea fertilizers. We fear they cannot feed their families or the nation. To mitigate the pandemic’s effects, building capacities, financial and marketing support is essential for at least six months. E- extension is also important. Nigeria has to diversify from an oil-dependent country to one with agriculture-led and technology-driven agribusiness systems.
Stella Thomas, Managing Director, Tecni Seeds Limited, Nigeria

At Tecni Seeds, we perceive COVID-19 as a setback for agricultural business. The cost of haulage and inputs have doubled due to non-availability of labor. So, we are trying to create an online presence for sales and increase use of machines to reduce human labor. It takes nearly two weeks to move goods from Kano to Ibadan due to interstate issues and bad vehicles. It is a trying time for everyone, but it will pass.Stella Thomas, Managing Director, Tecni Seeds Limited, Nigeria
Yalaly Traore, member of ULPC (Local Union of Cereal Producers), Mali

Farmers have varying perceptions. However, they all agree on one thing: the pandemic has affected us because all activities – planning, meetings and training – have slowed down. Price of agricultural inputs (fertilizers and herbicides) have increased and there is a shortage of certain products.

Due to the closing of borders, members of our cooperatives have not been able to sell their stocks built through loans. At ULPC, we have not yet equipped our farmers with masks or handwashing kits. We are actively in contact with partners, including NGOs, to see how they can support our farmers with these essential.
Roger Kabore, Minim Sông Pânga Association, Burkina Faso

In the beginning, farmers feared catching the virus from people returning from cities. Today, there is less fear. Farmers are mainly informed via radio and TV about COVID-19. However, closings of markets, borders and gold pawning sites have cut off income sources for producers. We are concerned that insufficient and high cost of imported agricultural inputs may affect production.

Our association has put a lot of effort in using local inputs (compost, seeds, and phytosanitary products). This pandemic is a real threat, but there are opportunities for the future if we build a strong local economy network and safety nets for farmers’ benefit.
Bougouna Sogoba, Director General, Malian Awakening Association for Sustainable Development (AMEDD), Mali

We lack manpower for cropping season activities and there is difficulty in getting services and inputs from the private sector and extension services. Donor countries of most NGOs and foundations are strongly impacted and there could be repercussions for financing. For our NGO, the main challenge has been to carry out our activities with health safety measures. We hope that the cropping season and production will not be much affected in Mali. However, this pandemic is also an opportunity to explore new ideas such as the use of digital solutions.
El Hadj Ibrahima Diouf, President of the GIE-Jambar (Groupe d’Interet Economique), Senegal

In Meouane, we are trying our best to stay safe with preventive measures and social distancing. We also perform prayers for divine grace. As our village is 150 km from the country’s capital, Dakar, and the scattered distribution of the houses in the village makes us believe we will remain safe from the pandemic.

GIE usually receives pre-basic seeds of millet and peanuts from ISRA (Senegalese research institution). We have not yet received the seeds this year. Also, the seeds we produced last year need to be certified, packaged and distributed to farmers. All processes have stopped even as the rainy season is set to start. The government’s recent decision to unlock containment, allowing seasonal workers to travel to rural areas, has worried us about the virus’ spread to rural areas.
Fanta Diamoutene, President of a women farmers group in Mali

Most farmers like me do not have smartphones and other virtual platforms that those in the cities are using to connect. We also do not have the knowledge to hold such virtual meetings. Therefore, we are very concerned about missing the season’s activities. We hope that partners will help us get protection kits in the near future, pending a solution to this pandemic.
El Hadj Abdul Razak, Director General, Heritage Seeds Company, Ghana

We cannot go to the market to sell our seeds and it is difficult to reach farmers. Social distancing prevents engagement of sufficient workforce for weeding and applying fertilizers, etc. If this continues, we may have to decrease our acreage in production.

Planning for the future is very difficult. We had clients coming from Accra in previous years but not this time because of the lockdown. Everything else can wait but production cannot. We need enough seed in the system. Seed is food security.


The health and safety of staff and communities are of utmost importance to ICRISAT during this difficult time of a COVID-19 global pandemic. Staff are required to work from home and postpone or cancel any group meetings and travel, and avail of ICT technologies for virtual communications. We are also following the rules of the government in each site where we work. Depending on the location, type of work and changing situation, project work continues. Please be assured we are doing everything possible but responsibly to undertake our important work while looking after staff, families and communities. Senior management are monitoring the situation closely and continually. We thank our partners and funders for their support. It is now even more important that together, including as OneCGIAR, we achieve food and nutrition security across Africa and Asia.

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