Our Programs in Africa Confront Impact of Conflict in Ukraine

June 16, 2022
A home and farm land in Malawi
Implications of the Invasion of Ukraine on Food and Fertilizer in Africa
As Ukraine continues to experience suffering, devastating violence and loss of life caused by the ongoing invasion, the world has begun to experience the long-term impact of the conflict in the form of economic and agricultural decline. And while we, at The Hunger Project, do not have active programs in Ukraine, the majority of the countries where we work are experiencing the ripple effects of the conflict. 

A recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report highlights how African countries are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the war due to the continent’s reliance on imports from Ukraine and Russia. 

In all nine countries in Africa where we have active programs, Country Directors report disruptions to the food system, including soaring prices of critical foods, like wheat, maize and cooking oils, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs, and the fuel needed to transport it. 

Hear from local leaders Samuel Afrane, Dr. Daisy N. Owomugasho, Teshome Shibru and Evariste Yagho on the issue of food system disruption in local communities:

Photo above: Malawi, 2022, Photo for The Hunger Project

“Agricultural materials and equipment have been severely impacted by the invasion, such as fertilizer, agro-chemicals and farm machines. The problem of access to food supply is not caused by only shortages of food but dwindling incomes due to price rises in the non-food sectors such as fuel.”

Samuel Afrane, Country Director in Ghana 

“People have been forced to cut down on consumption of certain foods such as bread and animal products like meat and milk to contain the growing expenses on food. Farmers, especially the small holder farmers, are resorting to the use of organic manure and other natural plant residues as fertilizers and pesticides on their farms. This is in response to the increasing costs of chemical-based fertilizers.”

Dr. Daisy N. Owomugasho, Country Director in Uganda

“The cost of food and agricultural resources such as chemical fertilizers has increased a lot already. The Ethiopian government has intervened by creating subsidized bread shops, facilitating the formation of neighborhood consumer associations that provide food items at cost recovery price, cracking down on Merchants who exploit the situation by hoarding key commodities like cooking oil and running safety net programmes like cash for work for poorer citizens.”

Teshome Shibru, Country Director in Ethiopia 

“In our country, the members of the communities are very conscious and worried about the future, because they note the aggravation of the situation with the intensification of the terrorist attacks and the invasion of Ukraine. This means that in our country the impact of the invasion of Ukraine is immediate and we fear the worst in the long term.”

Evariste Yagho, Country Director in Ethopia 

What does the UNDP report say about the impact of the war on food and fertilizer?

Food Imports

Between 2018 and 2020, Africa imported $3.7 billion in wheat, 32% of the continent’s total wheat imports, from Russia and another $1.4 billion, or 12% of the total imports, from Ukraine. 

Compounded by the ongoing climate change crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine contributes to the global rise in hunger. In 2020, up to 811 million people faced chronic, persistent hunger — nearly 420 million in Asia, over 280 million in Africa, and at least 60 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dr. Daisy N. Owomugasho, Country Director in Uganda

“Uganda hasn’t been immune from the Ukraine war’s fallout on global economic activities. Bread for example has become almost unaffordable to an ordinary Ugandan due to the soaring prices of  wheat and fuel.”

While the socio-economic ramifications of food and livelihood insecurity across Africa is substantial, there is an opportunity for African countries to reduce their reliance on food imports from outside the continent and take advantage of the capacity of local markets.

Fertilizer Prices

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised food production concerns in countries that depend on the region’s exports of fertilizers for agricultural productivity and food security. A reduction in fertilizer imports has posed serious challenges for West African farmers – which import 82% of their fertilizer from Russia. 

With almost 18% of its fertilizer imported from Russia, Samuel Afrane, Country Director in Ghana, projects, “If this continues for over 12 months, the effect on food security will be severe.” 

The UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance released a report stating that the current food and fertilizer situation in Africa is time-sensitive and urgent due to the upcoming planting season. The lack of access to adequate fertilizer may compromise the livelihoods of millions of people across the continent.

Investing in Local Economies

Given the increase in food and fuel prices and the fact that African economies have not yet recovered from the effects of COVID-19, it is likely that the war in Ukraine will have a direct, negative impact on the continent’s target to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

Now more than ever, we must invest in local economies and prioritize local innovation.

Grace Chikowi, Country Director in Malawi

“There is a growing interest to venture into value addition by local cooperatives-instead of selling soybean as a raw material, process it into cooking oil.”

An example of our work in supporting local livelihood investments is with the BLUETOWN Microsoft Airband Initiative which has brought 6,000 women online in rural Ghana to increase women’s economic opportunities by providing meaningful connectivity and eliminating barriers to women’s digital inclusion in three Hunger Project epicenters in Eastern Ghana.

At The Hunger Project, we see every day that investments in the resiliency of communities are key to addressing the current food crisis and others that may emerge. In this time of global turmoil, it’s critical that we invest in local capacity.  As a global community, we need to drive investments toward strengthening the capacity of smallholder farmers, decreasing the reliance on external inputs, and diversifying livelihoods.