Are African Farmers really Employed?Here are some interesting findings

It is well known that farming is a predominant occupation in Africa, especially the Sub-saharan region. Over 60% of African farmers are smallholder farmers; but it is difficult to know what proportion of these farmers plant for either own use or for sale.

Thankfully, a research was recently conducted by experts at the World Bank provides more insight. The research team mainly used household survey data sets from three Sub-Saharan African countries under the umbrella of World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) .

For a long time, subsistence farmers have been unduly classed as employed but the revised LSMS brings a significant change to this viewpoint: Farming that is only or mainly intended for own use is no longer considered employment -- implying that such a farmer is unemployed.

Here is the logic:

The farmer that plants for the sole purpose of feeding the family has at best taken care of “what to eat”, yet still a far cry from being employed.
On the other hand, those that plant for pay can provide for the family and grow the business.
Photo credit: YPard

Below are some of the key findings discussed in the research report:

  • Men are more likely to produce food stuffs for sale than women.

  • Subsistence farming is better described as “work,” not gainful “employment.”

  • 70-80% of farmers in the region under study produce only or mainly for family. Hence, they are categorized as unemployed.

  • In Nigeria and Malawi (2 of the 3 countries studied), the revised standards has led to a significant drop in the percentage of the population employed by about 20-30%.

  • The number of farmers that can be classified as employed by the revised standards changes throughout the year and across countries. For instance, towards the end of the growing season, an increasing number of farmers tend to produce more for sale. This suggests that end-of-planting season leads to higher employment for farmers, but the pattern cannot be generalizable.

In conclusion, a majority of farmers (about 70 -80%) in rural Africa engage in subsistence agriculture, mainly farming for own use rather than for sale – and therefore are chiefly unemployed; unlike earlier thought.


Article Credit: Michael Adesanya

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