Entry points to cope with the pandemic — No one size fits all response
The meeting found the entry points to cope with COVID-19 in agriculture and rural development include specific technical or agronomic solutions as well as more systemic approaches aimed at whole food systems (see visual above).
The international AR4D Centers are traditionally strong in genetic improvement of crops such as increasing their climate change adaptability or pest resistance and providing technical innovations like those related to sustainable mechanization. However, the Centers increasingly broaden their research focus in order to provide also systemic solutions related to climate change resilient food systems, natural resource management, holistic landscape approaches for land use planning, and sustainable finance to stimulate rural economies and development.
Not surprisingly, also digital tools, including information and communication technology, were considered to play a potentially important role in COVID-19 response strategies. For example, many experts managed to maintain their workflows even during the curfews by using digital tools for team meetings, extension services and even data collection. However, the experts also saw limits to the potential of digital solutions.
Significant challenges include limited connectivity, restricted access to electricity and devices, as well as lack of digital literacy of many rural actors. Especially experts located in African countries therefore emphasized the importance of complementing the use of digital tools by target group-specific non-digital approaches such as radio messages.
Independent of any specific type of intervention, a sound understanding of the role of age groups and gender has been considered critical for all response strategies. Especially women and youth must be key target groups.