Building food security resilience in North Macedonia

Photo: Ljiljana Mitevska

In the face of the threats arising from the corona pandemic, We Effect is taking immediate and decisive action. Through a nationwide project, implemented by all three partners in North Macedonia, solutions will be put in place to mitigate the impact of the corona crisis on food security and strengthen the capacity of the most vulnerable communities in the country. The project, funded and developed in close collaboration with the Swedish Embassy in North Macedonia, will not only offer immediate relief, but is also catalysing the shift towards more resilient communities in the future.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on most people in the world and especially on already vulnerable people with limited opportunities to create decent livelihoods for themselves and their families. It is too soon to assess the pandemic’s full consequences, but many measures will be required to counter its effects. Sweden has collaborated with We Effect in North Macedonia for many years and we find this initiative an important response to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic outbreak related to food security and economic empowerment of the most vulnerable people in North Macedonia, not least in the rural areas. Sweden remains a committed development partner to the people of North Macedonia,” says Kristin Forsgren Bengtsson, the Swedish Ambassador to North Macedonia.

North Macedonia’s rural areas are home to 40 percent of the population and two thirds of its poor people. And with the corona crisis underway even more sinister situation is emerging. Many rural families are finding it unceasingly difficult to make ends meet. Small scale and rural businesses are out of customers, and people who are already balancing on the margin are falling into poverty. The most pressing problems for the farmers are the disrupted supply chains and the lack of seasonal workers for the upcoming harvests.

The exposed vulnerabilities brought upon by the corona crisis are particularly sobering when seen through the prism of the everyday life of the poor Roma people, most of whom work in the grey economy, selling food, clothes or collecting plastic bottles – sources of income which are severely reduced at the moment.

“As the realities of the pandemic started to set in, affecting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable communities in North Macedonia, we realized that it’s imperative that we act. I’m hopeful that this project will create positive changes that will ensure more resilient future for smallholder farmers, especially women and youth, as well as the marginalized Roma community,” says Anneli Leina, the Regional Director of We Effect Europe.

The project Food Security and Economic Empowerment in North Macedonia aims to protect, restore and improve the livelihood systems in the communities most affected by the corona crisis. Through targeted actions immediate results contributing to food security are envisaged by re-establishing or introducing alternative market linkages for the farmers, creation of food hubs and providing economic perspectives for the ones in greatest need, such as the Roma population.

These actions will foster sustainable recovery with a focus on the well-being of the communities and improved inclusiveness. “Given the vital role that women play in food systems for themselves and their families, they must be able to benefit equally. In order to protect and empower women in these uncertain times we have explored ways to make these responses in agriculture and food security gender sensitive,” says Regional Director Anneli Leina.

Transforming food systems to be inclusive and equitable is an essential step in building more resilient and prosperous communities. And the aim of the project is not only to strengthen the capacity of the vulnerable communities in North Macedonia by providing rapid and efficient response to the corona inflicted threats, but also to pave the way towards their resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery. The ultimate goal, by promoting self-sustainable food systems is to lay out the foundations for food sovereignty.

The project is implemented by all three partner organisations of We Effect in North Macedonia, the National Federation of Farmers (NFF), the Rural Development Network of North Macedonia (RDN of NM) and the National Roma Centrum (NRC). The total budget of the project that will last until the end of 2020, is SEK 1.500.000.

Written by

Ljiljana Mitevska