Ebola crisis in West Africa of "grave concern"; Farmers are fearful and abandoning their fields.
By Joe Dales, Farms.com
The World Food Prize event is being held in Des Moines, Iowa this week, bringing more than 1,200 people from 60 countries to talk about solutions to global hunger, feeding a rapidly growing planet and boosting agricultural productivity.
This year the attention of the group has turned to preventing a food crises in Ebola affected countries in West Africa.
Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural (IFAD) was joined by the Ministers of Agriculture from Liberia and Sierra Leone in a press conference at the World Food Prize Symposium. The president of Sierra Leone, one of the hardest hit countries in the Ebola outbreak, was supposed to be a keynote speaker but stayed at home to manage the health crisis and addressed the symposium by satellite. The importance of dealing swiftly with the emergency in West Africa, as well as investing in long-term agricultural development to build resilience in rural areas was underscored.
Nwanze said the effects of the Ebola crisis in West Africa is one that should be a grave concern. Nwanze's keynote speech notes "that the Ebola epidemic has already seriously disrupted agricultural production and trade in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, leading to higher food prices. Farmers are leaving their fields as they stay home in fear of infection." Citing reports that up to 40 per cent of farms have been abandoned in the hardest-hit areas of Sierra Leone. "In the absence of a concerted international response, the affected countries could face a wave of food crises in the near future."
One example of how the health-care crisis more than 8,000 kilometres away could affect food production in the United States is the potential impact on the production and distribution of cocoa beans used in making chocolate by Nestle, the maker of Toll House chocolate chips and Butterfinger candy bars; and Mars, which makes M&M’s and Snickers candies.
Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa supply originates in West Africa, though the region’s largest producers of the commodity, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, have thus far not experienced an outbreak of the Ebola virus.
The World Cocoa Foundation, an international non-profit trade association of 115 chocolate and cocoa companies, announced today (http://worldcocoafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/10-15-Global-Cocoa-Sector-Joins-Fight-Against-Ebola1.pdf) a donation of $600,000 for Ebola care and prevention efforts.