As countries in Africa continue to take measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19, women in agriculture are disproportionately affected by the measures than men. The pandemic is exacerbating existing structural economic, social, and technological inequalities that women face as they struggle to perform their multiple roles in society. These inequalities undermine women’s capacity to respond and recover from the disruptions that result from measures of the pandemic. The disruptions not only affect their livelihoods and agri-business enterprises, but also increase women’s workloads, threaten their families’ wellbeing, and increase incidences of gender-based violence.
Women are a key pillar in the continent’s food and agricultural systems. They constitute 50% of the agricultural workforce, own 1/3 of the small and medium enterprises (SME’s) that produce, process and trade in agricultural products and services. Therefore, it is crucial to design and implement responses that would enhance their capacity to not only cope with the current effects but restore their businesses and build resilience to future shocks. To address their immediate needs, these responses ought to be designed with the women’s input and perspectives and sex/age data developed to monitor gendered impacts as well as inform the design of gendered interventions.
Therefore, AGRA conducted a voluntary online survey targeting women agri-SMEs, to get insights into how they are coping with COVID-19. The study was conducted between June and July 2020
The survey respondents included 71 women aged 18 years and above, operating small and medium agribusiness enterprises (SME’s) across the four Sub-Sahara Africa regions. Most respondents were between 25 and 54 years of age. East Africa had the highest number of respondents at 54%, followed by Southern Africa (26.78%), and West Africa (18.31%). Central Africa (4.23%) accounted for the fewest respondents. The survey – which was unrolled over two months – comprised of multiple-choice questions, designed, and administered using the survey monkey online platform. While it may be argued that an online platform is inaccessible to women in SMEs, it was the fastest, cheapest, and safest method to use given the pandemic restrictions and directives. Most of the women who responded were from SMEs producing crops and livestock (52.11%) and processing and distribution services (47.89%), with a minor group in commodity marketing and service provision. These businesses have a generally low annual turnover of between 50 – 200K (USD) and it is not surprising that they have not existed for more than 5 years. Hence, 69% of the respondents are not members of any network or any industrial association.