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Why gender-sensitive social protection is critical to the COVID-19 response in low- and middle-income countries

19. Mai 2020 - 11:34

“The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on movement to control the spread of infection are having profound impacts on the income and daily lives of people in low- and middle-income countries, particularly the poor. Governments and donors are responding by expanding social protection programs. Melissa Hidrobo, Neha Kumar, Tia Palermo, Amber Peterman, and Shalini Roy describe how the current crisis is also affecting gender relations, and why attention to gender in implementing expanded social protection programs is critical. They provide specific advice and propose actions to minimize harm during the crisis response period—and to ensure that longer-term gains in gender equity and empowerment can be maintained and built-upon post-crisis.” John McDermott, series co-editor and Director, CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).

This blog summarises the findings of an IFPRI policy brief on how to apply gender considerations in social protection aspects of the COVID-19 response in LMICs. Download the full brief under ‘downloads’ on the right or access it through the IFPRI website here.

Many governments are using social protection programs to respond to the economic crisis and health risk induced by COVID-19. As of April 17, 133 countries had adapted or introduced 564 social protection initiatives, according to the World Bank. With the focus on rapid assistance, gender considerations have understandably not been at the forefront of these efforts. A rapid assessment of initial COVID-19 social protection responses indicates that only 11% show some (albeit limited) gender-sensitivity.

This is unsurprising—most existing social protection programs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are either gender-blind or neutral at best—but it is worrying. The COVID-19 crisis has the potential to widen gender inequalities, including those related to loss of livelihoodsreproductive health risksdisproportionate burden of care, and violence against women and children. Social protection that does not take gender into account can reinforce these inequalities.

General guidelines for COVID-19 social protection responses are available, but how can governments address gender inequalities? Designing gender-sensitive programming is not always straightforward, but evidence suggests simple design and implementation adaptations can make programming more gender-sensitive. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, in a new brief summarized below, we provide key lessons, considerations, and guidance across five areas.

1. Adapting existing schemes and choosing the forms of social protection

Adapting existing schemes to be contagion-safe is a likely first step for governments, and these adaptations can have gender implications. Relaxing existing conditions (e.g. tied to work, health, or schooling) can simultaneously reduce viral spread and benefit women who are often responsible for fulfilling conditions, may be mobility-constrained, or may have fewer social or information networks.

Expanding access to health care via fee waivers or providing automatic health insurance enrollment can support women in continuing to seek care for critical, routine maternal and child health and reproductive health services. Cash benefits (via e-payments) are widely recommended; cash can also improve household economic security and emotional well-being, which directly benefit women and can contribute to reducing intimate partner violence. However, the feasibility of safely providing additional in-kind transfers (including food or soap) should be considered as well, as women and children are often the first to reduce food consumption in response to food insecurity, and women may be responsible for daily shopping, exposing them to potential infection. In-kind transfers should be considered where mobility is restricted, markets are limited, food prices spike, or COVID-19 restrictions induce supply chain closures.

When social distancing restrictions are relaxed, implementers of public works programs should ensure dignified work with fair wages where women can safely participate, with exemptions for lactating and pregnant women. When schools reopen, implementers should pay particular attention to re-enrollment of adolescent girls and relax economic constraints with appropriate policy instruments.

2. Targeting

How to target households and individuals are critical considerations. Retaining the original individual-level targeting of many existing programs may be most straightforward; however, such targeting can exclude vulnerable populations. For example, unemployment insurance typically does not cover informal workers, including the majority of women who primarily work in the informal economy. Providing universal household-level transfers can reach more vulnerable people, but who the household’s “named recipient” is may also have gender implications. Although broader evidence is mixed, a few studies from LMICs indicate that naming female recipients may improve women’s empowerment. We believe the evidence supports considering women as named recipients—while recognizing that particularly acute periods of the crisis (e.g., lockdowns) may intensify household tensions.

Therefore, in settings where existing analysis shows the feasibility and acceptability of targeting women, we see gains in continuing during the COVID-19 crisis. But in settings where targeting women was previously deemed infeasible, we do not recommend starting during the crisis and explicitly challenging norms during a time when tensions are high. Nonetheless, even in the latter case, minor tweaks in operationalizing targeting—including authorizing multiple household members to make transactions, ensuring information reaches both men and women, and providing messaging that benefits are for the entire family—could contribute to greater gender equity.

3. Benefit levels and frequency

Benefits in response to COVID-19 should be quick and lumpy, ensuring sufficient support before supply chains are overwhelmed—and to avoid health risks from more frequent payment distributions and contact. While qualitative studies indicate that women may be able to retain control of smaller transfers, large randomized studies suggest larger cash transfer values result in higher benefits for households and women specifically. In addition, no studies we are aware of show that larger transfers to women induce adverse effects.

Therefore, we believe programs should provide sufficiently high benefit levels to cover the duration of the COVID-19 economic crisis, understanding that programming during this time may be a full income replacement, rather than supplement. In addition, “top ups” should be considered for households caring for sick members or children to address disproportionate care burdens. Finally, it is important to consider that female-headed households are often smaller—and thus may appear better off in a direct per-capita poverty measure—yet may still be more disadvantaged for numerous reasons (e.g., discrimination, access to services, etc.).

4. Delivery mechanisms and operation features

Programs generally employ the most logistically feasible delivery mechanisms and operational features in crisis conditions, but seemingly simple choices may have gender implications. Accessible grievance mechanisms should be set up, and implementation and management staffing should include women. Delivery mechanisms for benefits and information should be practical and accessible to both men and women.

While e-payments may not be an option for many settings, in the longer term, national programs should invest in these. Extending the network of e-payments may increase financial inclusion, including among women, who have lower inclusion rates. Responses should consider that in many settings women are less likely to have access to mobile phones; existing programs have sometimes provided them for this reason. While mobile phones are a promising platform for providing information, it is important to keep in mind that improving access alone may not be sufficient; women also have lower literacy, lower ability to pay for services, and multiple constraints on their time. Thus, mobile phone-based platforms should be complemented by other platforms such as internet, television, and radio; and when possible in mobile platforms, voice messages or speaking directly to an expert are preferred to text messaging. Women’s groups or other peer support groups may be leveraged as networks for more efficient communication and delivery of essential services.

5. Complementary programming

Complementary programming remains relevant for women during COVID-19, especially on topics related to food and nutrition, including ways to access or grow nutritious foods when markets and supply chains are down; water and sanitation, as information about hygiene and social distancing are critical for reducing COVID-19 spread; maternal health including antenatal care, as travel may be restricted and health centers overburdened and a potential infection risk; sexual and reproductive health, including family planning and menstrual hygiene managementparenting and learning for children as many schools are closed; mental health for both men and women, given that many may experience depression related to isolation or loss of livelihoods; and access to referrals for violence-related services.

All of these comprehensive services will rarely be available, particularly during the pandemic, but social protection platforms can at a minimum explore integrating light-touch information campaigns with delivery taking into account the gender considerations outlined above) and linkages to services.

Concluding thoughts

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to address existing gender inequalities through social protection. Program designs should be adjusted to account for gender, in a manner informed by existing analysis, while taking a long-term approach. Related issues of political economy, coordination, and financing that have gender considerations should be explored in future guidance. Because these are complex issues and unintended consequences of programming are possible, more research is needed on intersections of social protection, gender and pandemics, where ethically feasible. At a minimum, monitoring statistics should be sex- and age-disaggregated and, where possible, data should be collected to ensure risks to beneficiaries do not increase. Taken together, these policy adjustments and new evidence can lay the groundwork for more gender-sensitive social protection systems in LMICs both during the crisis and beyond.

This article was originally published by IFPRI. An international Food Policy Research Institute. Access the original post here.

Het bericht Why gender-sensitive social protection is critical to the COVID-19 response in low- and middle-income countries verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Hit hard but fighting back: youth during COVID-19

14. Mai 2020 - 12:18
Brief update on COVID-19 in Africa

Africa has observed relatively low case fatality rates from coronavirus so far. Most countries report fewer than 6% of diagnosed cases resulting in death, compared to European countries like Italy, Spain and the Netherlands with 12-14% fatality rates. However, basic health and mortality data across Africa is generally poor. In Ghana and Kenya, for example, more than half of deaths go unrecorded, and low levels of testing overall suggests that more cases may be undetected. Health workers have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Not only does this decrease the labour capacity of already constrained healthcare systems during this critical time, but sending front line workers into the field unprotected raises multiple issues around ethics and inclusion.

The lockdowns have bought the region time in terms of the virus, but the huge economic effects of the crisis are forcing decision makers to look for safe and effective exit strategies. It is important that approaches are heterogeneous (based on the local capacity to handle a spike in cases), gradual (considering which sectors are most conducive to lockdowns or most at risk from relaxing them) and multilateral. Debates so far have suggested that exit strategies should focus on employment and livelihoods, with SMEs being a key vector for revitalisation, and that the potential of technology should be maximised in order to ramp up testing, tracing and treating and to support e-commerce and remote learning.

Evidence during emergencies:

Last week, a 3ie webinar on evidence during emergencies revealed a contradiction between the need for immediate and accurate data and the information overload. Over 17,000 COVID papers have been published, over one fifth of these in the past week alone, and yet decision makers are struggling to understand the full implications of their choices. The current crisis highlights existing challenges to the evidence infrastructure, including duplication, misinformation, funding and transparency. It emphasises the need for stronger coordination of knowledge, including better matching between producers and seekers of knowledge, which reinforces the role of knowledge brokers and networks in managing development, including during emergencies.

The webinar discussed the value of sharing and combining existing data sources for new innovative purposes and for enabling more immediate program adjustments. ‘Safe evidence generation’ using mobile phones and satellites can avoid going house to house and putting frontline workers in danger. It also attributed the visibly vast and rapid response to the investments made over the past 15 years in the ‘evidence to policy’ movement, such as methodological innovations, big data, knowledge brokering, and mobile data collection, with all of this coming together in a very specific context.


Youth employment and entrepreneurship during and after COVID-19

Young people in Africa (±15-35 years old) are among those that are and will be hit hardest by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Already before the current health pandemic and related recession, this group was confronted with the challenge of obtaining quality education and decent work. COVID-19-related shocks to the labour market are expected to further wipe out 19–22 million jobs and significantly reduce earnings for the self-employed in Africa, and will likely impact the quantity and quality of jobs available for young people. Moreover, missed learning opportunities caused by the pandemic may lead to significant and persistent earning losses for young people in the long-term. There is an urgent need to create new jobs in addition to maintaining existing ones, and to support and strengthen programs for skills development among Africa’s youth.

The private sector was, and will continue to be, the key to addressing the youth employment crisis in Africa. Private sector development (PSD) interventions seek to improve firm performance and increase labour productivity in firms. But PSD interventions alone do not automatically create the (better-quality) jobs needed for youth in Africa. A balance must be found between creating short-term jobs by tackling underemployment in vulnerable firms and sectors, and creating better-quality jobs in high-potential growth firms and large firms.

In this special edition news item

As part of a series on COVID-19 and inclusive development in Africa, INCLUDE shares evidence on how current disruptions, particularly in labour markets and education systems, impact different groups of youth in terms of skills, entrepreneurship and employment. We focus on how interventions to cushion the impacts of COVID-19 could affect socioeconomic inequalities among Africa’s youth population, and on what can be done to support the poorest and most vulnerable in terms of opportunities and livelihoods.

We particularly ask what lessons are being (or could be) taken from existing knowledge and experiences to support recovery and progress in youth employment and entrepreneurship. For example, many countries are reflecting on experiences from the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and from youth employment programs in post-conflict and fragile settings. In 2019, INCLUDE contracted a series of evidence synthesis papers on topics pertinent to youth employment challenges as part of the ‘Boosting decent employment for Africa’s youth’ research initiative [1]. These evidence synthesis papers provide valuable learning and recommendations which can be applied in the current crisis by helping to identify group- (e.g. young men versus young women) and context-specific (e.g. rural versus urban) barriers which prevent successful youth employment programs, and to understand how young people make decisions and how the quality of jobs and skills matter. 1. Pandemic responses related to youth employment

Due to COVID-19, nearly all African countries closed their schools, creating a significant obstacle for youth in terms of skill development, assessment and graduation. Moreover, many industries have suffered significant job and income losses due to restrictions in production and movement, particularly those in the informal sector, where the vast majority of African youth earn their living. Despite immediate and substantial responses to these challenges, some interventions could themselves widen inequalities between young people and depress opportunities for future development.

  • E-learning options are exacerbating existing inequalities in access to schooling, exposing the urgent need to close the digital divide and increase connectivity. Many countries are reflecting on experiences from the 2014 Ebola outbreak and using more widely-accessible technologies (for example, schools in Liberia are using radio for teaching).
  • Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) facilities play a potentially significant role in the COVID-19 response due to their shorter-term, modular and practical approach. Remote learning is often a weak substitute for learning more practical skills, which are important for driving employment and structural change. Sierra Leona is considering intensive clinical training modules for frontline healthcare workers to help control the outbreak, as they did with the National Ebola Training Academy.
  • Evidence from the 2014 Ebola outbreak also shows that combining cash injections and skills training can stimulate employment and entrepreneurship. This supports the use of basic safety nets during emergencies, which is promising given the increasing emphasis on social protection in African country COVID responses.
  • Measures taken so far to ease the burden of the pandemic are not enough to fully address the impact on youth in many African countries. Most interventions at this moment support businesses in the formal economy, with the majority of businesses in the informal sector being left out due to lack of registration or access to loans. Social protection for informal workers is being introduced in certain countries (such as Togo) and should be considered elsewhere to achieve equality in responses.
  • Youth have themselves been engaged in maintaining learning and creating opportunities. Young people in Kenya, Tanzania and Morocco have found innovative ways to help deliver high-quality lessons for both students and teachers. Also in Morocco, young entrepreneurs and innovators are making artificial ventilation machines, automatic thermometers, and automatic gates for sanitary disinfection and sterilization or protective masks for local hospital staff. A number of young entrepreneurs across Africa are creatively responding to COVID-19 by adapting their business models to keep them healthy, relevant and in service of their communities.
  • Despite their engagement at ground level, there is a great need to support young students and entrepreneurs more structurally, and to involve youth more broadly in decision-making processes so that their interests are met and they have more autonomy in shaping their own future. Youth must be a critical part of the active plan, not only to limit the virus’s impact on public health and society, but to support themselves and the wider economy in the short and long-term. Ultimately, as young leaders say: “Nothing for us, without us”.
2. Impacts on vulnerable youth groups

Young people are statistically less likely to suffer severe symptoms of coronavirus. Nonetheless, youth are highly affected by the pandemic, as their overrepresentation in low-paid, less secure and less protected jobs makes them highly susceptible to unemployment and labour market vulnerabilities. Particular groups of youth face extreme risk of losing opportunities for future livelihood development and socioeconomic mobility.

3. Impacts on inclusive regional development

The current situation presents a major opportunity not just to support the livelihoods of young Africans in the short-term, but for restructuring education systems and transforming labour markets to offer all young people a better future. Inclusive outcomes depend on the participation and collaboration of key actors, in particular the private sector and youth themselves, in addition to the usual modes of governance. We are already beginning to see the renewed engagement of youth in decision-making processes related to the pandemic.

[1] This initiative was carried out in partnership with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), under the aegis of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth.


Despite the unprecedented and uncertain global situation, INCLUDE acknowledges the need for strong and valid evidence to drive effective policy action. The news item therefore makes use of what we already know about governance, policy implementation and cooperation in African contexts, particularly during crises and emergencies. Where possible, we draw upon lessons learned in the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and other relevant experiences of infectious diseases. In preparing the news item, we filter the information available from reliable sources in our network to provide up-to-date and factual insights on the effects of the current pandemic and subsequent policy interventions on inclusive development.

We are open to any input and suggestions that could contribute to this debate. We invite you to send us an email.

Het bericht Hit hard but fighting back: youth during COVID-19 verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

COVID-19 prevention measures in Ethiopia: current realities and prospects

13. Mai 2020 - 12:26

Immediately after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ethiopia in March 2020, the Government of Ethiopia took several public health measures to prevent increased levels of infection. These included closing all schools and restricting large gatherings and movements of people. Hand-washing and social distancing were the main prevention measures that government has communicated to the general public through various media platforms.

Using the latest round of the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey, COVID-19 relevant indicators related to household access to communication platforms; access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); and characteristics of the home environment were assessed. The analysis shows that a sizeable proportion of the rural population does not have access to the media platforms used to publicize COVID-19 prevention measures. Moreover, without aggressive interventions, current levels of access to water and soap are suboptimal to adopt the hand-washing recommendations, particularly in rural areas. The low proportion of households with electricity, refrigeration, or internet connection and the relatively high prevalence of partner violence suggest that implementing the stay and work from home measures will be challenging.

Public health measures that slow down the transmission of the virus should be continued and efforts to prevent transmission to rural areas should be prioritized. Communication platforms and messaging will need to be adapted to different local realities to make any COVID‑19 containment recommendations operational. WASH-related support should be ramped-up, and addressing barriers to staying at home, such as the risk of partner violence, should be considered. The efforts needed to end the current pandemic in Ethiopia, as well as similar pandemics in the future, illuminates the serious challenges related to WASH and to the inequalities between rural and urban areas that need urgent attention.

This article was originally published by IFPRI-Ethiopia. An international Food Policy Research Institute in Ethiopia. Access the original post here.

Het bericht COVID-19 prevention measures in Ethiopia: current realities and prospects verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

COVID-19 & its impact on African economies: Q&A with Prof. Lemma Senbet

11. Mai 2020 - 15:11

New York (TADIAS) — Last week Professor Lemma Senbet, an Ethiopian-American financial economist and the William E. Mayer Chair Professor at University of Maryland, moderated a timely webinar titled ‘COVID-19 and African Economies: Global Implications and Actions.’  The well-attended online conference — hosted by the Center for Financial Policy at University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business on Friday, April 24th  —  featured guest speakers from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as the World Bank who addressed “the global implications of the COVID-19 economic impact on developing and low-income countries, with Africa as an anchor.”

In the following Q&A with Tadias Prof. Lemma, who is also the immediate former Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium based in Nairobi, Kenya, explains the worldwide economic fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the African continent, including Ethiopia.

TADIAS: Prof Lemma, thank you for your time. You just finished moderating a webinar on COVID-19 & African Economies. Can you give us a  quick recap of the online conference?

Professor Lemma W. SenbetThe webinar featured two high level policy experts and officials from two of our flagship international institutions: Dr Domenico Fanizza who is a member of the IMF Executive Board, and Dr Rabah Arezki, World Bank MENA Chief Economist.

Let me first give you a context for the webinar. We often hear about the dark side of Africa in international news media. Yes, Africa has its dark side. African countries face enormous economic and social challenges, but on the bright side, Africa has maintained sustained growth over the last 25 years, with some seven countries having been among the fastest growing in the world. This is not accidental. It is an outcome of years of massive reforms of both real and financial economies in Africa.

Now enter Africa and COVID-19, the greatest global crisis of the century. This is foremost health crisis of epic proportions. It has like-wise resulted in economic crisis of epic proportions, far exceeding the global financial crisis (a decade ago) and touching every country and, in fact, every human being. The webinar focused on the economic dimensions facing low income countries, with a focus on Africa.

After a slow start in Africa, COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly throughout the continent. The adverse economic consequences are already being felt. This is in part due to negative economic spillovers resulting from the economic hits to Africa’s main trading partners: EU, China, U.S.

The resource rich countries, particularly Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, South Sudan, etc., have been badly hit.. Moreover, similar to the other countries, such as U.S., African countries have begun implementing mitigation and containment mechanisms to cope with COVID-19.

Therefore, large portions of African economies are shut down to prevent mobility and spread of the virus. Major cities in this regard include Lagos, Johannesburg, Harare, Accra, and Addis, Nairobi.

TADIAS: What specific issues were discussed at the webinar?

Prof Lemma: The webinar was intended to unpack the key economic issues, and for the earlier part, it dealt with global interconnectedness which, and in this context as to why Africa and low income countries matter to the rest of the globe. Hearing this from speakers who are highly placed at the global institutions and reassurance for global partnership was welcome. The webinar provided a broad assessment of economic devastation on low income countries, particularly African countries, for lockdowns, shutdowns, etc. – responses which are now widely adopted globally, including Africa.

While the advanced countries have the capacity to mitigate the adverse economic impact on livelihoods, small businesses, services, through massive government rescue programs, low income countries have no commensurate resources. The webinar discussed national and global responses to the plight of African economies; particularly the respective responses to-date of key global and regionals institutions: IMF, World Bank, UNDP, AfDB, etc.

The other issue the webinar addressed was exit strategy. The more advanced countries are easing restrictions to reopen their economies. However, low income and fragile states cannot afford to do that in view of low capacity for large-scale testing, weak health infrastructure, and relative absence of social safety nets. Even more disturbingly, economies would be further devastated with continuing lockdowns and shut downs. The speakers grappled with the health and economic consequences of relaxing restrictions, and if there is a way out or exit strategies for African countries.

The second part of the webinar was interactive based on the questions and commentaries from the participants. It was a global audience.

TADIAS: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that “the coronavirus pandemic is causing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s” and that “the global economy will shrink by 3 percent this year.” What does that mean for Africa?

Prof Lemma: As Domenico Fanizza, member of the IMF Executive Board, mentioned, the IMF expects the GDP for Sub-Saharan Africa to contract by 1.6 percent in 2020. This is only at a gross level without accounting for population size. The per capita income is expected to decline by 4%. This is very disappointing to say the least. This hugely negative news has come after about two decades of sustained economic growth in the region, with several countries having been among the fastest growing in the world (Ethiopia included). There have been substantial improvements in living conditions and reduction in poverty. All that is now threatened. We hope the recovery to be fast post COVID-19, but it would be very difficult to recapture what is lost even we experience a V-shaped growth. Some are actually bracing for the W shaped growth, which is really scary.

TADIAS: Given the forecast that over the next two years worldwide output will be $9 trillion less than expected before the crisis, does the financial impact of the pandemic differ from region to region within the continent? And, if so, how?

Prof Lemma: Yes. Europe has been hit the most, with an expected 7.5 per cent reduction of GDP in 2020, as also mentioned by our panelist from the IMF. COVID-19 broke out when the region’s growth had already slowed down; countries, such as Italy, France, Spain, and UK are very likely to be hugely affected. The US  economic contraction is expected to be close to 5 percent, but already the number of unemployment filings has reached about 26.5 million (on April 24, the date of the webinar), and it is still rising. This is devastating viewed from the baseline (pre-COVID-19) full employment only a month ago. Asia is the only continent that is expected to grow (1 percent in 2020), but more slowly than expected a few months ago. The relatively lower economic hit is attributable to an early and prompt actions against the spread of the virus.

There are also substantial variations within Africa. COVID-19 showed up in the wake of the other headwinds the region is already experiencing – globally: China-US trade tensions and Brexit; internally, the challenges include weak health infrastructure; non-existent safety nets in most of these countries; commodity/oil price slump; and heavy indebtedness in terms of very high levels of debt (scaled by GDP) and high debt servicing costs. This is really very bad news for the oil-rich countries, such as Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, South Sudan, etc.

TADIAS: What’s the expected effect of the pandemic on economic activity in Ethiopia?

Prof Lemma: Ethiopia is not immune, of course. The impact will be major. Based on the IMF estimates, growth is expected to slow down dramatically from 9 percent to 3 percent in 2020. Ethiopia was among those countries which were immediately and adversely impacted by COVID-19 even at the inception of the spread of the virus. This resulted from negative spillovers from the main trading partners in EU, Middle East, China, and even US. The hospitality industry, including hotels, tourism, travel, were immediately affected. So was trade volume – both exports and imports. So were remittances. Moreover, the fiscal deficit will be greatly exacerbated in view of government expenditures in coping with the health crisis as well as rescue attempts to protect economic livelihoods and micro enterprises, as well as small and medium enterprises. These have been engines of employment creation, and should be protected. The large informal economy poses both risk of health epidemics and loss of incomes (already at very low levels) threatening those at the low end to devolve into poverty. That is why any government interventions, including global support for Ethiopia, should be multilayer, including the protection of the most vulnerable, as well as microenterprises and SMEs. The other side of the coin is that there are microfinance institutions which fund small businesses, and they should also be brought into the picture for government responses. They will fail if there is widespread default at the level of small businesses, particularly microenterprises. The Friday webinar was, in part, intended for enhancement of global attention to the plight of African economies and to the global responses for the mutual benefit – global health and economic health.

TADIAS: Last month both The World Bank and IMF issued a joint statement to the G20 concerning debt relief for developing countries and calling “to suspend debt payments from IDA countries that request forbearance.” What are your thoughts on this proposal? Does it go far enough to address the looming debt crisis?

Prof Lemma: Many African countries were already on the verge of looming debt crisis due to build-up of high levels of borrowing domestically and internationally. I cannot see much worse time for these countries to get caught up with the COVID-19 crisis. The international initiatives coming from G20 and international financial institutions are definitely welcome, This should be viewed in the broader global interest and interconnectedness which are now reinforced by COVID-19. In this connection, what is not getting as much attention is debt owed to private international creditors. The good news is that many African countries began accessing international credit markets (e.g., Eurobonds issuance) at arms length. In the earlier HIPC era, these countries were rationed out of the markets. Now they are also able to access diverse sources of borrowing. However, this has become a double-edged sword, particularly in troubled times, such as the one we are facing. It would be very difficult to restructure agreements among diverse set of creditors. While non-private creditors are engaged in debt restructuring and reliefs (at least in the short term by rescheduling payments, etc), I have not witnessed yet that such initiatives are taking place with respect to private creditors. There should be a concerted global effort to bring them to the table to resolve the looming debt crisis in an efficient and mutually beneficial manner. Without that I am worried that African countries, except the very few, such as South Africa, may get rationed out again in the future from the private credit markets.

TADIAS: Looking at the future, what are some of the main institutional changes and solutions that need to be implemented on the global level in order to avoid similar disasters from occurring again?

Prof LemmaI will be brief here. I am taking a pro-globalization view. I would not be surprised, though, if anti-globalization forces emerge from COVID-19. My view is that, given a very strong reinforcement and reawakening by COVID-19 about global interconnectedness, policies must be globally coordinated both at the health and economic levels. COVID-19 has not spared anyone. As they say, we are in it together!

TADIAS: Thank you again Prof Lemma and we wish you all the best. Stay safe and healthy.

This article was originally published by Tadias Magazine. A New-York based news & profiles magazine tailored towards the Ethiopian-American & Diaspora community.  Access the original post here.

Het bericht COVID-19 & its impact on African economies: Q&A with Prof. Lemma Senbet verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Euro-African COVID-19 solidarity: the leadership

7. Mai 2020 - 8:28

Since six years, the Knowledge Platform for Inclusive Development (INCLUDE) has become an important think tank, consisting of twelve leaders from African, and twelve leaders from Dutch organisations. Emeritus Professor Isa Baud of the Governance and Inclusive Development Research Group (University of Amsterdam) acts as its Chair. The African Studies Centre Leiden hosts its Secretariat under the effective leadership of Marleen Dekker and in collaboration with AERC in Nairobi and The Broker. Since its start I am one of the Dutch Platform members. On 28 April INCLUDE had its half-yearly meeting, virtually this time, with 31 people participating via Zoom, from all over the planet. Of course COVID-19 was a major concern. INCLUDE publishes a weekly update about ‘How COVID-19 affects inequality in Africa’[1]. In the meeting we decided about a new research programme, ‘Inequality and COVID-19 responses in Africa’, prepared by Anika Altaf.

The most surprising intervention during that virtual meeting came from INCLUDE-member Rolph van der Hoeven, Emeritus Professor at the ISS and member of the UN Economic and Social Council. Speaking from Geneva, he mentioned something that had escaped all of us: an opinion piece in the Financial Times of 14 April, titled ‘only victory in Africa can end the pandemic everywhere’ (paid access, or read it here)’. As a subtitle it said: ‘World leaders call for an urgent debt moratorium and unprecedented health and economic aid packages’. The plea is worth reading, but I would like to focus here on the people who signed it.



14 April was the period when the Dutch political leadership was perceived to be fighting against intra-European solidarity. At the same time, and surprisingly, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, was one of the EU leaders who had signed the plea for massive solidarity with Africa in the Financial Times. Who else were there? On the European side we see the leaders of the European Union (Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel) as well as six European leading politicians, one President (Macron), and four other Prime Ministers (of Italy, Portugal, Germany, and Spain). Absent were political leaders from the UK and Scandinavia, until recently always in the forefront of solidarity with Africa, and also absent were the prime ministers or presidents of Central and Eastern Europe. On the African side there were ten leaders who had signed, including Mousssa Faki, Chair of the African Union Commission. The others were eight presidents (Rwanda, Mali, Kenya, Angola, South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, and the DRC) and one Prime Minister (Ethiopia). There are 55 African countries in the African Union, so it is clear that the majority did not directly sign, and that included the leaders of two countries that so far had been hit most by the virus, Morocco and Algeria. But also the presidents of for instance Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda were missing. Of course this could have been caused by ‘slow decision-making’ on their part (the deadline was fast), but all the same, I think that the combination of African leaders who signed this Call for Solidarity gives a very interesting ‘insight’ in the current intra-African positions of leadership in these very difficult times.

[1] In preparing my contribution for the INCLUDE meeting, I found a very interesting document, published 15 April, by GeoPoll: ‘Coronavirus in Sub-Sahara Africa. How Africans in 12 nations are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak’. Worth reading, also for its methodology.

This article was originally published by the African Studies Centre Leiden. A multidisciplinary academic knowledge institute in the Netherlands devoted entirely to the study of Africa. Access the original post here.

Het bericht Euro-African COVID-19 solidarity: the leadership verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

The nonlinear narrative of inclusive development

6. Mai 2020 - 12:54

Last month, INCLUDE coordinator & African Studies Center Leiden professor Marleen Dekker and Nicky Pouw from the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research were invited to share their knowledge and perspective regarding the question: ‘How to reach the (extreme) poor through inclusive development policies?’ at the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) webinar. In doing so, Marleen and Nicky drew upon findings from the NWO-WOTRO Research for Inclusive Development in Sub-Saharan Africa (RIDSSA) programme, coordinated and facilitated by INCLUDE from 2014-2018.

In the webinar, Marleen and Nicky introduced a policy analysis framework to understand inclusive development from a bottom-up perspective. The framework places the wellbeing of poor and vulnerable groups at the centre, and considers the different stakeholders involved in overcoming the hidden and transaction costs and institutional barriers which prevent these groups from achieving greater equality in both opportunities and outcomes.

The RIDSSA programme’s empirical evidence and insights on inclusive development policies, programmes, interventions and processes were also shared, and the ensuing discussions served to shed light on what can be done to make development more inclusive. One of the key takeaways of this discussion was the notion that inclusive development is not a technocratically linear process, and that political economy aspects of development are of central importance for generating real inclusiveness.

You can watch the full EADI webinar below:

Het bericht The nonlinear narrative of inclusive development verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

How African economies can easily recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

6. Mai 2020 - 10:46

The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) Senior Policy Seminar has placed a spotlight on fragility of growth in African economies, seeking to stimulate an informed policy dialogue and related policy-making aimed at reducing identified fragile contexts and building a more resilient African economic sector.

However, social and economic issues that were already highly challenging have now become exponentially more serious due to the current COVID-19 health crisis and the catastrophic effect it is having on the African economies as well as the global economy.

Despite decent economic and social progress achieved in the last two decades, growth in most African countries remains characteristically fragile.

This inherent fragility extends across the economic, social, political and cultural fabrics of life in Africa.

The typology of the fragile context revolves around political instability, weak institutions that lead to poor accountability and leadership, civil and political unrest, low human development, low investment levels and the low level of economic diversification that produces protracted economic decline with a negative shock from one sector of the economy, among many other factors.

AERC’s Executive Director Professor Njunguna Ndung’u notes that although the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are devastating on already fragile African economies, the outlook is not completely dire.

“In order to move forward, we need to look at the lessons learnt from this crisis and heed the urgency for change that it has highlighted. Weak points, some known, others underestimated, have been brought to the fore.

In addition to infrastructural issues, the reliance of African markets on imported goods (and services) has proven to be a detrimental factor during this crisis – particularly regarding the shortage of masks and other health and safety resources typically sourced from outside Africa”.

There is an urgent need for solutions that will move the continent forward, reduce risk and maximise on opportunities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Proposed means of achieving this include:

  1. Policymaking and interventions that consider the existing weaknesses within African economies, the post-crisis challenges facing the continent and future long-term methodologies to forestall the negative effects of crises
  2. Enlisting the support of multilateral institutions and bilateral partners and working together to develop comprehensive and effective solutions to overcoming challenges across different sectors.
  3. Governments and the private sector need to consider ways to help the population and African markets recover from the debilitating effects of COVID-19 on factors such as GDP growth, critical macro-economic indicators, inflation, exchange rates, employment and livelihoods to vulnerable sectors.
  4. The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement needs to be accelerated – boosting intra-African trade, development and economic diversification, making African economies less vulnerable to economic shocks and more resilient to global crises or market disruptions.

Ndung’u added that how Africa reacts in the aftermath of this social and economic crisis will be definitive in guiding the recovery and inclusive growth of the continent.

“We cannot predict the future, but we can be better prepared for the uncertainties that lie ahead”.

This article was originally published by East African Business Week. A leading online business newspaper in Uganda (East Africa). They provide definite coverage of trade news, investment news and finance news from an East African Community perspective.  Access the original post here.

Het bericht How African economies can easily recover from the COVID-19 pandemic verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Food security versus disease risk: how Africa is dealing with this policy conundrum

4. Mai 2020 - 20:29

In our weekly updated news-item, INCLUDE has been identifying various measures taken to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic and to support African economies, communities and workers, asking what they mean for ongoing and planned development programmes and for the livelihoods of people in Africa. Our main focus is on if and how current policy trends and practices will affect socioeconomic inequalities (both between and within countries), and on what can be done to support the poorest and most vulnerable.

Given the volume of information online, the growing body of experience to learn from and the honing of debates, we have chosen to shift from general updates to focus each news item around a particular key issue. The first special edition below gives a short initial update on the general situation, including some topics discussed briefly last week, then focuses on the topic of food security and nutrition.


Update on COVID-19 trends and measurements in Africa

Many African countries are now grappling with how to restart their economies and avoid large increases in poverty without placing their populations under severe health risk. While some countries such as Nigeria and South Africa continue to see an exponential increase in the number of reported coronavirus cases, others such as Burkina Faso and Ethiopia have seemingly flattened the disease curve. Many of these trends, however, are being observed with skepticism, with the overall low incidence of new infections being considered an underestimate of reality.

Data accuracy and availability (particularly regarding testing) and social protection challenges present two of the greatest obstacles to reducing uncertainty and managing major trade-offs between starvation and disease, economy and wellbeing. Here, we share the latest knowledge on testing and social protection in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by a more in-depth focus on COVID-19 and food security in the region, an issue which was initially overshadowed by pandemic and economic concerns has gained attention in the crisis impact and response debate.

  • There is an urgent need to expand testing capacity for COVID-19 across the continent. Accessible and affordable tests are the only hope of being treated and potentially survival for many vulnerable people. Screening also helps to increase citizen awareness and cooperation and to inform governments on decisions such as when to remove lockdown measures and how to allocate health spending.
  • Testing has been scarce throughout the region. Ghana and South Africa have carried out the most tests (113,000 and 197,000 respectively), though this still amounts to less than 4000 per 1 million population, while Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country with over 200 million people, has tested just 13,000 individuals.
  • The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committed last week to distributing more than 1 million test kits to African countries in four weeks (rising to 10 million tests in 24 weeks) through the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT). However, with over 15 million tests needed, there is still a major gap to be filled.
  • Notable assistance has been given from the private sector and foreign donors in this effort. In Nigerian, medical delivery company Lifebank has launched two drive-through mobile testing centers to boost coronavirus testing numbers in the country, and the private-sector led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has ordered 250,000 testing kits. German cooperation for expanding testing capacity in Ghana and the Sahel.
  • The US think tank Atlantic Council published a paper identifying that beyond the undersupply of tests, efforts to push for mass testing were compromised by logistical constraints in accessing rural and densely populated urban areas, shortages of healthcare staff and facilities, distrust of health workers, and a stigma associated with the virus itself.
Social protection:
  • In the past week, five more African countries have introduced or adapted social protection programs specifically to deal with the COVID-19 crisis (Congo, Gambia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan), bringing the regional total to 35 countries.
  • Currently, there are 81 social assistance programs in place, and just 8 social insurance and 4 labour market programs. There is a need to explore what other regions are doing in terms of labour market and social insurance programs, to see what can feasibly be applied in different African countries. For example, Indonesia has doubled spending on the program ‘Kartu Pra-Kerja’ that gives subsidized vouchers to unemployed workers for skilling and reskilling, making it accessible to approximately 5.6 million informal workers and SMEs who have been impacted economically by COVID-19.
  • Regarding wage subsidies, there is an important trade-off to be considered between supporting SMEs and self-employed workers who are more vulnerable, and supporting larger firms who provide a lot of local employment and uphold key economic structures.
  • In general, social protection responses have lagged behind measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, due in many instances to fiscal and liquidity constraints. Moreover, with the average duration of these programs being 2.9 months, there are question marks around the longer-term sustainability of social protection.
Food security

Global restrictions in production, trade and transportation are threatening the functioning of Africa’s food systems. Lockdowns, border closures and halted production have compounded food shortages and led to dramatic changes in food prices. Simultaneously, work and income losses have led to an expected increase in the rate of relative poverty by 56 per cent in low-income countries aroun the world, or up to half a billion in the worst-case scenario. With an increasing share of the world’s poor and food insecure living in Africa, these trends create an imminent threat of a continent-wide food crisis.

Even before the crisis, Africa was facing a series of disruptions to its food system, including locust plague, droughts, floods, and foreign exchange losses. Malnutrition and hunger were already leading causes of death and disease in the region, making it highly vulnerable to health and food crises. The 2020 Global Report on Food Crises showed that, at the start of this year, more than half of the global population who were acutely food insecure (or over 73 million people) lived in Africa. The current situation has exposed major cracks in the food system in terms of how production is organised and how people source food, and will most likely exaggerate this figure unless urgent action is taken.

Here, we identify some of the interventions to ensure short-term food security and nutrition in the SSA region, and the impacts they are having on different vulnerable groups. We also present some of the recommendations for preventing an ongoing food crisis and helping businesses to stay in operation. The Dutch Food and Business Knowledge Platform also offers key resources on COVID-19 impacts on food and nutrition security, including a hunger map by the World Food Program to monitor the ongoing situation.

1. Responses around food security and nutrition
  • Emergency food distribution programs by multiple actors, including CSOs, charities and communities themselves, are doing their best to satisfy household food needs. With foreign aid squeezed and transportation highly restricted, however, they have been unable to reach all the hungry, who are no longer just the poorest of the poor. In addition, food programs have caused unintended consequences such as stampedes, violence and the breaching of social distancing protocols, showing a need for better planning and organisation of initiatives. Lessons could be learned from municipalities where public administrations are collaborating with community/non-governmental actors to map vulnerable people and scale up food distribution to reach all of those in need.
  • A new IFAD fund of US $40 million has been launched to help prevent a rural food crisis in the wake of COVID-19. The fund is intended to support farmers and rural communities to continue growing and selling food by accessing markets, inputs, information and financial services, with the broader goal of maintaining the progress made so far towards SDG1 and SDG2. The foundation also seeks to gain further endorsements from member states and the private sector to help in its efforts.
  • The Policy Support and Governance page by the FAO houses an extensive list of publications on expanding and improving emergency food assistane and social protection programmes to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, providing immediate assistance to protect smallholder farmers’ food production and boost e-commerce of food businesses, and addressing trade and tax policies to keep global trade open.
  • The FAO has taken on the enormous challenge of distributing 10,000 metric tons of maize and vegetable seeds to vulnerable farmers in South Sudan in advance off planting season to ensure they have food to grow, eat and sell. The initiative is attempting to shorten supply chains and overcome current logistical constraints by encouraging farmers to buy seeds from local vendors using cash rather than attending crowded seed fairs in trading centres, many of which are inaccessible due to restricted movement.
2. Impacts on vulnerable groups
  • Small-scale rural farmers, who are already vulnerable due to low average incomes, a lack of protection, and seasonal or climate-related disturbances, are particularly at risk of losing their livelihoods due to falling consumption and constricted access to markets and inputs. Farmers and traders are also exposed to significant health risks if lockdowns are lifted, given the scarcity and poor quality of sanitation and healthcare infrastructure. This creates a policy conundrum by potentially forming a trade-off between disease and starvation, which supports the need for greater testing and information around risk.
  • Supply chains are affected differently depending on the nature of goods, trade patterns and commodity price fluctuations. In Ethiopia, dairy farmers are being hit particularly badly, as demand for perishable goods has decreased and the price of remaining goods plummeted due to oversupply. Sectors with a high share of agricultural inputs sourced from China, such as seeds or fertilizers, are also struggling to maintain operations.
  • The COVID-19 nutrition crisis: what to expect and how to protect shows the reductions in dietary quality due to heightened unemployment. The demand for nutritious food has declined due to its relative cost and difficulty with storage, with the poorest being affected the most by price hikes, panic buying and food shortages. The article provides recommendations for keeping agricultural systems running, increasing access to nutrient-rich food, and maintaining public health.
  • Maternal and child health can suffer particularly during food crises. Increasing the rate of hunger and malnutrition, even for a short period, can contribute to child stunting and nutrient deficiencies which can cause long-term damage. Poor nutrition also lowers individual immunity, leading to increased risk of infection and disease which is especially concering during outbreaks. This nexus between food and health, if it persists, can interact with other aspects of poverty and wellbeing by decreasing rates of return to work and education.
  • Africa’s food crisis also has a strong link with informality, since a high portion of its population sources both food and employment informally, and informal workers are often not eligible for cash and in-kind transfers to mitigate the effect of job losses on consumption (though some social protection programs are beginning to incorporate informal workers). ILO’s 3rd edition of ‘COVID-19 and the world of work’, published last week, estimated a decline in informal sector earnings by 81 per cent in Africa during the first month of the regional outbreak, which is extremely concerning for meeting their basic needs.
3. Impacts on inclusive development
  • ‘As global food crisis looms, local leaders offer solutions’ discusses the underlying fragility of global food systems (related to exploitative corporate agriculture and undiversified farming) which has left them vulnerable to collapse. The article paves the way for more local, sustainable models of food production which allow communities to withstand crises by having greater food sovereignty. It promotes a major role for local organisations to support, for instance, farming cooperatives or communal land management practices. African indigenous foods: Opportunities for improved food and nutrition security similarly discusses the potential for traditional food to improve the health and nutrition of the poor, empower local producers and processors, many of whom are women, and protect the cultural identity of marginalised groups.
  • The FAO Urban Food Actions Platform documents a range of initiatives, good practices, innovations and regulations by national and local governments around the world, in collaboration with civil society at different levels. For example,  ‘The role of cities and local governments in responding to the emergency’ cites a list of short- and long-term actions to minimise the social costs of disease, particularly in densely-populated, informal urban areas, and to strengthen the resilience of urban food systems.
Despite the unprecedented and uncertain global situation, INCLUDE acknowledges the need for strong and valid evidence to drive effective policy action. The news item therefore makes use of what we already know about governance, policy implementation and cooperation in African contexts, particularly during crises and emergencies. Where possible, we draw upon lessons learned in the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and other relevant experiences of infectious diseases. In preparing the news item, we filter the information available from reliable sources in our network to provide up-to-date and factual insights on the effects of the current pandemic and subsequent policy interventions on inclusive development.

Het bericht Food security versus disease risk: how Africa is dealing with this policy conundrum verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

The impact of COVID-19 on agri-food systems and value chains in Ethiopia

1. Mai 2020 - 15:02

Yesterday (April 30), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) hosted a webinar to discuss how agri-food systems across the world have been affected by COVID-19 through restrictions in production, demand, trade and transportation. The speakers described the range of responses to these disruptions and the varying impacts on economies, households and businesses, then advised on the major steps needed to minimise the health and poverty consequences for low-income countries and certain vulnerable groups.

The webinar looked specifically at informal traders in Africa and compared the disruptions across different food value chains in Ethiopia. Below, we draw upon some of the webinar’s key insights and cite two articles from the Ethiopia Strategy Support Program (ESSP) on the impact of COVID-19 responses on some of Ethiopia’s key agricultural sectors which support the discussion:

  • Estimates show that without large-scale and immediate interventions, the current economic situation could place 100-150million people back in extreme poverty, reversing progress of the past decades. If current patterns in food consumption continue, involving the undersupply and underpurchasing of afforable, nutrient-dense food, it could lead to a significant increase in malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, with the largest risks for maternal and child health.
  • The crisis is having heterogeneous impacts across different value chains, depending on the nature of products; access to affordable inputs; trade patterns with major exporting/importing countries; the ease and cost of transportation; and changes and regulations in commodity prices.
  • A prime example is Ethiopia’s dairy sector, farmers have being converting milk into butter due to households choosing non-perishable goods over milk, resulting in a significant decline in the price of butter. Dairy feed prices are estimated at 40% high than before the crisis. Additional constraints have arisen through many labourers not working or demanding up to 40% higher wages over the last month, and restrictions in travel, with transport costs up by 15%.
  • Informal food trade represents a major source of employment in Africa, especially for women, and up to 70% of household food purchases. A huge range has been observed in the severity of restrictions on informal trading, from complete closure in Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and some cities in Kenya and Nigeria, to restricted operating hours in Rwanda and Uganda, and decongestion in Ghana through alternating trading days for different products or opening new spaces to trade. Many governments are also distributing masks and potable water, enforcing more frequent sanitation measures, and waving tax and levy obligations to local authorities.Compliance is a key challenge, with many traders continuing to operate in more hidden spaces and running from authorities, and authorities destroying stalls and using violence to enforce social distancing and curfues. There is a clear problem with institutional coordination, with informal workers and entrepreneurs lacking partners to support their needs and rights.
  • Importantly, we must keep agri-food systems functioning in order to avoid a continental food crisis and maintain livelihoods. This means that farmers must be allowed to farm, traders to trade and sellers to sell. This creates a particularly important role for WASH facilities and sanitation regulations to minimise the spread of viruses, as well as interventions to ensure child and maternal health.


Impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on coffee value chains in Ethiopia

In the first half of April, coffee trade on the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX) declined by about 30% compared to the same period in previous years. This seems explained by lower supplies to the market – by farmers as well as traders – as well as by more bypassing of the Exchange. Local and international prices are diverging. This increasing wedge is seemingly driven by higher logistical and administrative costs due to the COVID-19 crisis. For example, transport costs have significantly increased in the last months, by about 15% for local transport and 70% for international transport. While international prices did not decrease, ECX prices did. Consequently, farmgate prices for cherries are down as well, compared to last month by about 20% and last year by almost 10%. Read the full article.

Impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on vegetable value chains in Ethiopia

On March 13, the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ethiopia. Three days later, the government closed schools, banned all public gatherings and sporting activities, and recommended social distancing. Other measures to contain the spread of the virus soon followed. Travelers from abroad were put into a 14-day mandatory quarantine, bars were closed until further notice, and travel through land borders was prohibited. Several regional governments banned all public transportation and imposed restrictions on other vehicle movement between cities and rural areas. While these actions are expected to slow the spread of the disease, they are likely to have substantial effects on food value chains, and thus on the livelihoods of farmers and other workers, and on consumption.

To understand these effects, we conducted a qualitative and rapid appraisal of the vegetable value chain. Building on a large value chain survey that IFPRI undertook in February, we conducted phone interviews (March 23-April 2) with key stakeholders along the vegetable value chain from main producing areas in the Central Rift Valley to Addis Ababa: Small-scale farmers, large scale investors, brokers, agro-input dealers, and developmental agents. Read more.


These article were originally published by the Ethiopia Strategy Support Program (ESSP), a collaborative program undertaken by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Policy Studies Institute (PSI). Access the original posts on responses, coffee and vegetables by clicking the relevant link.

Het bericht The impact of COVID-19 on agri-food systems and value chains in Ethiopia verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe: a disaster for farmers

29. April 2020 - 15:54

Over the last few weeks we have been tracking what’s been happening in our rural study sites in Zimbabwe as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown (see the earlier blog too). Last week, I caught up with a colleague in Masvingo who had been recently in touch with others in our team in Chatsworth, Chikombedzi, Hippo Valley, Matobo, Mvurwi and Wondedzo. This blog is a report on current conditions, summarising a long phone conversation.

The lockdown was first announced by the President Mnangagwa on 30 March, and was subsequently extended on 19 April for a further 14 days. As of April 26 there were 31 reported cases and 4 deaths, spread unevenly across the country. But of course the fear is that the disease will spread and strike hard. The lockdown measures have been heavily enforced and have caused massive hardship, particularly in the poorer urban areas, where informal traders in particular have been targeted. Farmers have suffered too due to movement restrictions and the collapse of markets.

As my conversation last week revealed, Zimbabwe’s experience, like elsewhere in Africa, raises questions as to the costs of a heavy-handed lockdown, particularly on the poor and marginalised, and whether there are alternative approaches both to confront the virus now and for different approaches to society and economy in the future.

How have movement restrictions affected people’s lives in the rural areas?

Massively. Although you can go to the local shops (between 9am and 3pm) and move about your area, you cannot move further without a permit, and have to prove that travel is essential. Security people can stop you at any moment. You can get a permit from Agritex (extension service) locally for agriculture-related movement, or from the councillor or police. But if you have to move further you have to go to the provincial level. It can take days. You can try your luck and negotiate at the road-blocks, but you will likely be turned back. There are so many police out – they’re everywhere! There is no public transport these days. If you travel in your private vehicle, you can only have two people. All the private Kombis and buses are grounded. ZUPCO (a government-owned company) operate buses, which are disinfected after each trip, but there are very few. This has had a disastrous effect on business, and farmers cannot get crops to market. Right now people need workers to help with the harvest, and although this is allowed as agriculture is essential, you can easily be stopped, and it makes getting help on the farm more difficult than before.

So what about agricultural produce markets?

It’s a disaster. All the main ones have been shut down. There was an outcry and they opened them again for a bit, but people crowded there. It was chaos, so they shut them again. This means for horticultural farmers in our study areas things are tough. Vegetables, especially cabbages and tomatoes, are rotting at their farms. In the south, huge number of melons have gone to waste. For some, vegetable-drying is possible, and people are creating ‘mufushwa’ in large quantities. But overall it’s a disaster. Some are selling individually, travelling to the ‘locations’ (high density suburbs) and selling from their pick-ups. Some can sell to the supermarkets if they have contracts, but demand has gone down. You can’t move from the location to town in Masvingo without permission, and so people just buy locally, informally. Other markets have also dried up. The boarding schools are closed, so are the universities, along with all hotels, restaurants and so on. These all used to be so important for horticulture markets, as well as for poultry. Income from these sources has ceased. Same too with the massive church gatherings, attended by thousands. In some of our sites, people had been growing for the Easter gatherings, but now they have had to dispose of the produce. It’s a disaster for farmers.

What about businesses more generally?

Most of these are closed. It means that as a farmer you can’t get your pump repaired, or a car fixed. You can’t go and buy key bits of equipment. Even if the shop opens for a short time, which some are allowed to, getting a permit to travel from you rural farm and ensuring you are there at the right time is impossible. A big problem is cash. This has been a problem for a time. The electronic RTGS Zim dollar is worth less than the Zimbabwe bond notes, but people are not keen to use cash notes as it might transfer the virus. Even if you have money in the bank, you cannot get it. They’ve opened banks only for forex, and for short periods, to allow remittances from the diaspora to be paid. This is vital for many of us, including farmers.

How are people surviving?

The rural people are on their own. There is a big chain reaction – without markets, producers, transporters, and all others suffer. And then there is no cash to buy food or other inputs. For example, there is a big theileriosis disease outbreak among cattle currently, but people have not been able to buy spray dip chemicals and cattle are dying in numbers. They cannot be driven to other places to avoid the ticks, so they just die. Of course people in the rural areas are in some way better off. It’s the beginning of the main harvest season and, although the season was bad, people at least have something. It’s much tougher in town. There’s subsidised mealie-meal, but a packet of 10kg that should be Z$70 it’s being sold for Z$90. Traders are exploiting the situation. Some are illegally doing business. In one study site the grinding mills open at night to allow people to get food. The money changers operate under cover and there is a growth of private business, from people’s homes, including brewing beer, baking and selling food. In the south, some are even risking crossing the border to get supplies for resale in South Africa. The danger is that they can smuggle the virus too.

What are some of the social issues emerging?

Certainly there are reports of increased domestic violence. People cannot go out, and tensions rise. Some are consuming illegal brews – including spirits made at home. This can be dangerous, just like we are seeing increased drug use among the youth. Normal life is disrupted. You cannot even bury the dead – you again need a permit, and a health worker has to be present to supervise the burial, and a maximum of 50 can attend, but following social distancing rules. Travelling to funerals is impossible if outside your area. Family relations – and life in general – are being challenged by this virus.

What about health services?

Yes the clinics and hospitals are open. The problem is that you have to get a permit to move. And then the nurses at a clinic may not see you. They don’t always have the full personal protective equipment (PPE) and are really scared. Even though there are no cases in Masvingo as yet, people may be dying of malaria or childbirth complications or whatever, because of the lockdown. It’s killing people. The government is investing seriously in the health service, even employing more health workers. They are creating emergency beds, even in the rural areas, but it may not be enough. We have seen what has happened in Europe and the US on the news.

What are people’s attitudes to COVID-19?

People ask, what disease is this? Where has it come from? It is such a shock! There are so many rumours. People say it’s God’s revenge; they blame the superpowers; they say it has been manufactured to kill us. But mostly people are just scared. They have seen the news. We know pandemics, we had HIV/AIDS, but this is worse. It’s the number 1 disease. With AIDS people died over a long time, but this is sudden. With HIV you knew how it was transmitted, and people changed their behaviour. It could be avoided. This is just meeting someone – it’s so contagious. Even thought he’s allowed, one of our colleagues who works with Agritex was moving around and was told in one village to go home – to ‘keep to your place’!

Who are the main people involved in the response?

There are so many. The government actually has organised quite well, it is doing something. Before they’d forgotten the health system – there was a freeze on health posts, people were paid badly and the hospitals and clinics were in a terrible state. Now they see the importance. This crisis has at last awakened the administration. For years we haven’t had an effective health service, but now something at least is happening. In each area there are COVID-19 task-forces – and mines, business people, well-off individuals and others are contributing resources. The universities and some business are making things – sanitiser, masks, PPE materials and so on. It’s a joint effort with government. The chiefs are involved too, and so are the spirit mediums who are seeking spiritual help to get through the crisis. The churches are doing the same; although they are not meeting, the church leaders, prophets and others are mobilising. Everyone is praying! There are WhatsApp groups giving advice on what to do, including some ideas for remedies. There seems to be a unified approach, and all the political parties are involved.

What next?

So far we haven’t suffered from the disease, only the lockdown. We have a few cases only. We accept that this lockdown period is for building the capacity of the health system to cope. Let’s hope that’s possible. It’s a Catch 22. We see what has happened in the UK, US and even South Africa. We don’t want this to happen here. But with lockdown most people are surviving hand-to-mouth. Life has become very, very difficult. There is mass suffering, and so far in Masvingo we haven’t had a single case recorded. Is it worth it? I don’t know, but everyone is very scared. Maybe there can be a process where kids can go to school, markets can open and we can move around because we cannot go on like this for long. There must be ways to make the places where lots of people gather safe – schools, transport hubs, markets, shops, religious gatherings and so on. Surely we can think of ways. Good hygiene, distancing and so on. Once the health service is adequate and built up things will be better; maybe there will be some anti-viral medicines too, like we have for HIV. Hopefully we can then live with the virus, and still survive.

What lessons can we draw from the experience so far?

We know that health services are important, and the government needs to invest. We know that farmers are essential and contribute to combatting a crisis, especially getting food to urban areas. We also know that lockdowns are really impossible – and they can kill. They may be worse than the virus! We also know that we can do things ourselves. Good diets bring immunity. There are traditional remedies that may help. And hygiene in the home and at work is always important. In the past we used to be self-reliant, making and selling things locally. There were often big crises, such as droughts, but our parents had granaries to tide them over. In future, we have to be prepared, we have to use our own resources. In the past we used to make things ourselves, not go to the shop to buy. Why are we importing so many things like face-masks? We can make them. We produce huge amounts of ethanol from sugar, so we can make sanitisers. We have forgotten self-reliance. We have been taught a very big lesson by this virus. We should not rely on the outside, and individuals and households have to take the responsibility ourselves.

This blog is a summary of a recorded conversation on 23 April 2020. Thanks to the whole team form across Zimbabwe for their contributions. Future posts will offer more updates and detailed cases from our field sites in Masvingo, Matabeleland South and Mashonaland Central provinces of Zimbabwe.

This article was originally published by zimbabweland, an occasional blog largely written by Ian Scoones who is a research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, and co-author of the book Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities. Access the original post here.

Het bericht COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe: a disaster for farmers verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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