By Catherine Mungai, Matthew Fielding, Mary Thiong’o, Alphaxard Gitau and Sharon Anyango
The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting agricultural value chains in Africa by threatening food nutrition and security as well as the livelihoods of farming communities that rely on agriculture directly as a source of income. In addition, climate related catastrophes such as floods and the desert locusts have compounded the problems facing the most vulnerable populations especially the rural youth.
Whilst development partners and governments have been encouraging the youth to embrace agriculture as a source of income it is worth noting that young rural people especially young women are among the most vulnerable groups and are at high risk to disproportionately suffer both from the pandemic and its aftermath. The youth already face higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, and are overrepresented in the informal economy where they are 40% more likely to be in casual work arrangements than those above 35yrs. Most earn their income on a daily or weekly basis and have little or no access to health insurance or social security. At the same time, it is increasingly being observed that some of the policy responses and measures put in place by governments to halt the spread of the virus are exacerbating existing challenges that rural youth face in engaging in agriculture and agribusiness. For example, several formal and informal businesses, which employ large numbers of youth have been forced to close or downscale significantly as a result of lockdowns and movement restrictions at national and local levels.