The study carried out by CABI scientists found that since March, the number of people without enough food in Kenya and Uganda rose by 38 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively.
CABI is an international not-for-profit organisation, whose work is done by teams of scientists and key partners working in more than 40 countries across the world.
Out of a sample of 442 respondents, two thirds reported being food insecure during the pandemic.
The scientists led by Dr Monica Kansiime carried out the research online using WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, Twitter social media platforms and email.
“Taken together, the results suggest that although the Covid-19 pandemic is causing detrimental effects on all economic sectors, farmers are more likely than salary and wage earners to report suffering income shocks,’’ Dr Kansiime said.
The explanations for this include difficulties for people to go work on their farms and access inputs or transport.
’’Compared to salary and wage-earning workers, the farmers in this sample earned relatively low incomes. Consequently, even a small shock to their income-earning activity could cause devastating effects.”
During the Covid-19 period in Kenya, Dr Justice Tambo, the research’s co-author, observed that more than half of the respondents were worried about insufficient food and consumed limited food varieties.
Before the outbreak, only 30 per cent of the respondents in Kenya experienced food insecurity.
“Similarly, the number of respondents in Uganda who reduced the amount of food eaten, were unable to eat healthy and nutritious food, consumed less diverse diets, or were worried about not having enough food to eat increased significantly by about 30, 35, 45, and 50 percentage points, respectively, during the Covid-19 period.”
The number of people who regularly consumed fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood, meat and poultry – reduced by about 50 per cent in Kenya.
This should be a major source of concern given that some of these food groups are important sources of the micronutrients needed for good health.
Current estimates indicate that over two billion people worldwide already suffer from micronutrient deficiency.