COVID-19 has created new priorities for the Malian government to consider after releasing their initial agricultural forecast on March 20, 2020.
The agricultural campaign plan in Mali is produced annually by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, and validated by the Prime minister and the President of Republic trough the National Executive Committee of Agriculture (CENA) and the Higher Council of Agriculture (CSA). A key strategic document, the plan reviews the previous campaign and forecasts the upcoming one. The 2020 agricultural campaign plan, approved on March 20, forecasts 11 million tons of cereals and 0.8 million tons of cotton with a national budget contribution of about CFAF 204.36 billion (CSA, 2020). Only five days after the approval of the plan, the government announced the COVID-19 pandemic, which would likely affect the implementation of the 2020 agricultural campaign.
COVID-19 has created new priorities for the government with a focus on the immediate needs of the population, including procurement and supply of staple foods and essential health products. As such, budget resources have been redirected. The COVID-19 agenda has imposed new challenges on the agricultural sector because it has changed the baseline assumptions of the 2020 agricultural campaign plan.
Theoretically, the plan respects the presidential commitment to allocate 15% of the national budget to support agricultural programs. The government response to COVID-19 could affect the plan in three ways: (1) reducing or reallocating the agricultural sector budget; (2) redesigning or reducing subsidy programs for seed, fertilizer and equipment; and (3) changing the availability of agricultural inputs such as improved seed, pesticides, herbicides, equipment and fertilizer. The use of purchased inputs differs by crop, but also relies on timely assessments of farmer demand by extension services. All these could negatively impact agricultural production and productivity and in turn, food and nutrition security.
Updating the 2020 campaign plan has become a requirement for its success. A full review of the planning activities reflecting COVID-19 challenges is required. Although the national budget is under pressure, additional financial efforts are likely to be needed in order to design and implement a comprehensive 2020 agricultural campaign plan. We must evaluate the extra cost and find an alternative source of funding. There is also an important need to sensitize farmers about the risks of the pandemic and protect rural as well as urban communities.
Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy -Mali Food Security Policy Research Program/ Projet de Recherche sur les Politiques de Sécurité Alimentaire au Mali (PREPOSAM)