Farmers and small – medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) across Africa are facing huge financial challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures, according to a research released today ( World Food Day ) by the NGO Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). The VSO survey was conducted in June and July across Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. One thousand eight hundred farmers as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the five countries were requested to rate how the pandemic had affected their livelihoods since the start of the pandemic. The results indicate that Nigeria is the most severely hit by lack of money to buy food and essentials because of the impact of the virus and lockdown. Sixty three per cent of the respondents in Nigeria rated lack of money to buy food and essentials as severe or high.
‘’We need a longer period of financial support to get our businesses going again. I participated in a VSO programme in Yola, Nigeria. In 2018 I learned about food production and how to make pastries, and then I was able to start my own business. Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, I have been unable to continue my business due to the restriction of movement. It has affected my livelihood, all the savings I had from the business were spent on food and I am finding it difficult to provide for my family,” said Tabitha Dali, a Nigerian business owner.
Of the five countries surveyed, Tanzania had far fewer restrictions and coronavirus cases. Tanzanian survey respondents were least affected by lack of money, with sixty one per cent among them rating the challenge low or not affected at all.
Twenty three per cent reported that lack of funds had reduced their food intake across the five countries surveyed. The highest proportion was amongst Ugandans where more than thirty eight per cent of the respondents reported reducing their food intake. The respective figures for reducing food intake were twenty five per cent in Tanzania, twenty four per cent in Nigeria, twenty one per cent in Kenya and fifteen per cent in Ethiopia. Other coping mechanisms included taking out loans or borrowing, using up previous stocks and relying on government and NGO support. Twenty three per cent of the respondents relied on borrowing; another twenty four per cent consumed previous stocks, while over nine per cent and seven per cent received support from governments and NGOs respectively. Of those who rated the issue as severe, fifteen per cent were receiving no support at all from governments and NGOs.
Ruchi Tripathi, global practice lead for resilient livelihoods at VSO, who led the research, said: ‘’What comes through in our surveys is a sense of urgency, people are telling us they will soon run out of options, their current coping strategies such as reducing food intake or borrowing money from friends and family, will no longer be feasible within a short time, certainly by the new year. Despite this clear need, the majority are not yet receiving any food assistance support, and time is ticking.’’
The survey indicated a significant appetite to learn new skills or develop new operations to generate income, with close to forty six per cent of the respondents across the five countries indicating that this was a top priority. These results echo the findings of a Ceres 2030 report, which show that agricultural interventions work most effectively when people have a minimum level of income and education, in addition to access to networks and resources. VSO programmes ensure that continuing to invest in the capacity and agency of the most marginalized people is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that people can continue to feed themselves and their families.