By Dr Mustapha ABA, Aquaculture Researcher, Fish Nutrition. Morocco.
The COVID-19 pandemic has gradually infiltrated our countries. As we seek to ensure the health and safety of our families, for many people, food has never seemed more important, both as a source of nutrition and as a source of well-being and health. The question is whether, as the economic turmoil continues, we can avert a food crisis related to this pandemic in the world and in Africa in particular.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have far-reaching implications, shaping global demand and changing the supply patterns of many industries, including the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
Globally, COVID-19 has generated a massive global economic shock, through economic downturns and recessions that hit the poorest households hardest through reduced storage capacity for food products, especially those related to aquaculture production. In addition, COVID-19 is already having a major impact on supply chains and logistics for both producers and consumers, as evidenced by closed borders and reduced air traffic. Thus, this pandemic will have many negative effects on food and nutrition security, particularly in African countries.
Role of aquaculture in health and food security in Africa
The COVID-19 pandemic has gradually infiltrated all countries. As we seek to ensure the health and safety of families, for every person, food has never seemed more important, both as a source of nutrition and health. The question is whether we have been able to learn from these economic food disruptions to avoid a food crisis related to this pandemic.
Observations in several countries have led to the observation that malnourished people with compromised immunity are more exposed and more likely to spread the Covid 19 virus. What we consume as food and the quality of that food affects our health and well-being and our immune system. This is why we are heavily dependent on farmers to produce and deliver food to us to market. But there are constraints, some foods are more nutritious than others; such as high-protein aquaculture products.
Thus, an effective response to a food crisis related to VIDOC-19 requires us to consider how to restructure our food systems to protect communities from ill health, and to ensure that food is of good nutritional quality. Like medical care, food from aquaculture must be able to move freely across the borders of African countries to ensure that safe and nutritious food is available in sufficient quantities.
Processing technology – an alternative to ensure the availability of aquaculture products during the difficult times of the pandemic
To save lives, meet food needs for aquaculture products, and provide longer-term solutions to support recovery and build resilience in Africa. Responsible aquaculture communities must promote and protect food from aquaculture through reliable, safe and healthy techniques.
Strengthening the management of aquaculture products in Africa through the processing of these products will prevent disruptions in the fish supply chain and help ensure food security during the pandemic crisis. Production and processing activities need to be developed in Africa to meet the continued demand for aquaculture products and it is a reflection for all aquaculture communities in Africa to continue to innovate and take the necessary steps to process their aquaculture products, with the aim of enhancing food security and environmental sustainability in our continent.
The growing global demand for fish is increasingly being met by aquaculture production, which is gradually shifting towards consumption of processed products as opposed to fresh products. The availability of processed fish products not only solves the problem of the supply of fresh products, but also extends the shelf life of aquaculture products.
The use of new processing methodologies also provides opportunities for job creation and the development and promotion of the aquaculture processing industry in Africa, which is lagging behind other continents.
The growing demand for fish for human consumption has been accompanied by a growing interest in the quality and safety of aquaculture foodstuffs. Thus, the processing of fish; allows to reach a safe level of quality of aquaculture products for consumption, thus contributing to food security in Africa in these difficult times.
Finally, COVID-19 presents a major issue and challenge for the aquaculture food system in Africa. Since then, we have learned much more about the nutritional and health damage caused by the deficiency of these aquaculture feeds and the damage that can result in an increased risk of serious COVID-19 disease for millions of people. Like other agricultural products, aquaculture products will be essential for health and boosting our immune systems to reverse the outbreak of VIDOC-19 and to define a new future for our aquaculture in Africa.
To do this, let us protect ourselves through health rules, stay home, let us be vigilant, but not negligent.