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How did African farmers cope with COVID-19? – New Food Magazine – New Food

The way in which African farmers dealt with the pandemic has been highlighted by new research, which has revealed the role that apps such as WhatsApp played in the recovery effort.

African farmerAfrican farmer

New research has shed light on the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic affected agricultural practices in Afrida, with different regions handling the impact of the disease with varying levels of success.

Researchers found that East African farmers (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) were able to better adapt to the impact of COVID-19 than those in the Southern African countries of Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

These regional differences, the researchers said, could largely be explained by the difference in arrival times of lockdown measures, access and adoption of technology and cultural differences in adapting to the new situation.

Timing of the pandemic

Eileen Bogweh Nchanji, a gender specialist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and a co-author of the paper, said that when COVID-19 lockdowns started in southern Africa, it happened right in the middle of the harvest of legumes like beans, a key crop for food security and livelihoods.

“If you had to go out to sell your crops, nobody wanted to do the transport and a lot of people lost their crops,” she said, adding that East Africa was more fortunate in that lockdowns hit at a more advantageous part of the crop cycle, and that relatives returning from the cities were available as labour.

Lutomia Kweyu, a researcher at the Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization in Nairobi, Kenya, and another co-author of the paper, said that before the pandemic, the Sub-Saharan food systems were very fragile and again, the timing was a big factor.

“We were dependent on imports and inputs, mostly from Asia and Europe… then the pandemic struck Asia, a big source of fertiliser and animal feed,” he said, adding that this led to large disruptions in the supply chains of those farming inputs.

whatsapp whatsapp

WhatsApp became a crucial tool for farmers during the pandemic

Changes in farmer behaviour

Kweyu explained that particularly in East African countries like Kenya, there was a large increase in the plot size of urban farms.

“Urban Farmers wanted to have access to healthy and safe food, so they increased plot sizes in the urban areas, to increase the production,” he said.

Meat was so expensive, many people began to grow and consume legumes. It was a blend of those who had gardens before and others who hadn’t farmed before but were now stuck at home and wanted to reduce their trips to the markets and their overall food budget.”

Kweyu said more East African farmers were able to access government support, in comparison to southern African countries and supply chains were more certain.

“The huge difference was the ability of the east Africans to process their raw materials into value-added products. In Kenya particularly, the milk processing capacity is higher, the milk trucks were declared essential services and, in the dairy-producing regions, processing of milk into butter and yogurt increased substantially at the co-op level.”

As the pandemic wore on, farmers in eastern and southern Africa also found feed and fertiliser solutions closer to home.

Mobile phone apps to the rescue

One of the more surprising findings from the pandemic, said Nchanji (who is originally from Cameroon), was the rapid adoption of communication apps to facilitate new connections between farmers and buyers.

According to Nchanji, in general, the challenges posed by lockdowns and supply chain disruption, led to farmers reassessing their activities.

“They couldn’t do anything for the season, but then they realised they had more time on the farm, so they started think about what else they could grow and how to sell more efficiently,” she said, adding that digital platforms were able to bring together farmers and aggregators (traders who put together big lots of produce for sale).

“In Kenya, for example, someone will now go on to a WhatsApp group and say, I have this quantity of beans to sell, in this district and then an aggregator or wholesale buyer will be able to get in contact with them directly instead of having to make stops at various farms,” Nchanji said.

Nchanji claimed however that the prices were generally lower than the old market price, as biosecurity measures and scarcity meant climbing transport costs.

“The WhatsApp group for the bean farmers actually got so big, we’ve had to move to Telegram,” she said.

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Pensioners Of Closed Companies In A Quandary, Fail To Access Payouts – New Zimbabwe.com

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By James Muonwa 


THOUSANDS of former workers of companies that ceased operations are failing to access their pension payouts from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) after years of contributing religiously to the scheme.

Mashonaland West Pensioners Forum chairperson, Rumbidzai Zingwari-Tandi lamented NSSA was demanding signatures from officials at the closed companies, a development that has thrown thousands of deserving social security beneficiaries in a quandary.

She requested for a relaxation of the application process and criteria for eligibility for pensioners, who worked hard for the country’s development through contributions to the welfare fund.

Zingwari-Tandi said: “Some pensioners whose companies ceased operations are facing difficulties in having their applications processed by NSSA as they are asked to have application forms signed by company officials who no longer exist in view of the closure of the respective companies.”

She added: “I cite Golden Kopje Mine (in Chinhoyi) as an example. We request that there be security measures that these pensioners may be able to access their pensions.”

Former workers at commercial farms were also suffering the same fate as most dispossessed white farmers have fled the country following the controversial seizure of their land by the government to pave way for black Zimbabweans.

“As for pensioners who used to work on farms, the farmers are no longer there so when you ask them to have forms signed by their former employers who are no longer there, where should they go?”

Participants at an interactive engagement with Labour Minister Paul Mavima last week in Chinhoyi suggested evidence such as payslips and long-service awards should suffice to prove one’s employment history.

Since the turn of the millennium, hundreds of companies have folded, leaving millions jobless as the country’s economic implosion continues to worsen.

Closed companies were mainly from the construction, clothing, motoring, and agriculture sectors.

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COVID-19 jobs carnage : The numbers – NewsDay

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

“THERE were unprecedented global employment losses in 2020 of 114 million,” the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported early this year.

A new report by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) shows that job losses locally were nearly 1,5 million last year from both the formal and informal sectors.

The statistics confirm how millions of Zimbabweans were affected by the COVID-19-induced job carnage.

According to the 2019 labour force and child labour survey report by Zimstat, almost 2,9 million people aged 15 years and over were found to be employed.

But, in a new joint 2020 survey report on ICT usage in the country by Zimstat and Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), there were only 1 426 744 people identified as either permanent or part-time workers, a significant decline from the 2019 levels, and a worrying development for the country.

The drop is further proven in the increase in persons within the stipulated age group doing an economic activity, which rose to 8 989 981 from a 2019 comparative of 8 101 515. Zimstat defines economic activities as activities in which people are engaged in work to produce goods or provide services for pay or profit only, which covers both formal and informal sectors.

The joint report is titled ‘2020 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Access By Households and Use By Individuals Survey Report.’

“(According to) details of individuals 15 years and above…highest proportions of 29,5% for the male population and 37,8% for the female population, indicated that they were own account workers in agriculture who produced mainly for subsistence,” part of the report read.

“Countrywide, 33,6% of individuals (aged) 15 years and above were subsistence own account workers in agriculture. The female category also recorded 17% of its population aged 15+ as homemakers, compared to 2,3% which was reported in the male category for the same age reference.”

In the report, 1, 4 million were recorded as being employed from the total number of economically active persons.

Another 1,2 million were own account workers (people working for themselves), while 165 330 were contributing family workers.

The report said  421 213 were uncategorised.

Lastly, 909 649 were recorded as homemakers with 334 646 being retired or too sick or old to be engaging in any form of economic activity.

“When asked the main kind of economic activity in which establishments they work for are engaged in, close to a third (26,2%) of the individuals aged 15 years and above indicated that they worked for institutions mainly involved in wholesale and retail trades; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles sector,” the report read.

It is a worrying development, because almost all of these sectors are in the service economy of which productive sectors are not being utilised to their maximum potential.

Most foreign currency-generating exports are derived from manufacturing sector operations.

“Just above a fifth (21,8%), of the surveyed people said they worked for establishments mainly engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

“The highest proportion (39,6%) of the female population, 15 years and above, worked in wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles sector, while the highest proportion of male individuals (22%), was employed mainly in agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.”

Last year, the global market came to a standstill owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced government to apply hard lockdowns which allowed only a few sectors to continue operating.

As a result, companies began to reduce working hours to try and contain the spread of the virus, which meant lower profit margins.

Of course, companies were forced to downscale with jobs being the first to be affected.

This problem has affected many countries.

However, in Zimbabwe’s case, existing economic challenges, including a depreciating currency piled more pressure on businesses to implement cost-cutting measures, with job cuts being the solution for most companies.

As a result, companies and those running small businesses in the informal sector were forced to cut jobs.

Recently, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions described the job market as volatile.

“If that is the number, then that is correct in the sense as what is counted as employed people include people that are in the informal economy. Remember in the last labour force and child labour survey of 2019 it was indicated that 76% of the jobs were informal jobs. So, with COVID-19 the sector that was mainly affected was the informal economy,” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa said.

“We lost a lot of jobs in the formal economy…but we also lost a lot of jobs in the informal economy. People are no longer working because of COVID-19 around the country. Many people even had to migrate back to rural areas and the unfortunate part is that we are not very robust in terms of reporting our labour market information.”

He said the trend of jobs losses had continued up to now owing to mostly technological advancements and economic challenges with COVID-19 only accelerating the process. The loss in income has been catastrophic, owing to the rise in the cost of living.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) says in September, prices of most basic food and non-food commodities increased mainly in Zimbabwe dollars.

Parallel market exchange rates saw increases of up to 15%, contributing significantly to price increases.

Maize grain prices went up in Zimbabwe dollar terms by between 10% and 15% across FEWS NET’s main sentinel markets.

While the government has relaxed most COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for improvements in transport availability, economic activity, and recovery of livelihoods and income-earning opportunities, the improvements have not been enough to stave off job losses.

“Improvements in income are expected to be limited as national borders remain closed to non-essential goods and services, continuing to constrain informal cross-border activities, remittance flows, and other livelihood activities,” FEWS NET said. Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said the majority of households are struggling owing to “declining incomes that could not meet the rising cost of living…household income has shrunk to very depressing levels”

Government must quickly address the situation otherwise the poverty rate which is currently close to 50% will further increase.

  • This article first appeared in Weekly Digest, an AMH digital publication

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Corruption Busters In Court For Extortion – New Zimbabwe.com

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent


TWO employees of an anti-corruption organisation have appeared in court following their arrest for extortion.

Mind Musokeri (33) and Wilfred Nyahunda (44), who are employed by the Southern Africa Regional Anti-Corruption (SARACO) appeared before Chinhoyi magistrate Rumbidzai Tshuma charged with two counts of extortion and were remanded in custody for the next fortnight.

Prosecutor Knight Tawanda Rwodzi pleaded with the court to deny the pair bail due to the seriousness of the offence.

The first complainant is Kudakwashe Faranando (34) of Murereka, Chinhoyi who is employed as a fuel attendant at Ram Petroleum, Lion’s Den.

He is also a farmer and beneficiary of the Command Agriculture Scheme for the 2020/2021 season.

In count one, the state case is that sometime in September last year, around 8 am, Musokeri met Faranando while in the company of his friend Tendawakura Kanyenze at D&R Service Station.

During the course of their discussions, Musokeri revealed he was a member of SARACO tasked to make follow-ups of all beneficiaries who had not paid back money for Command Agriculture inputs.

On the same morning, Musokeri met with Nyamunda at D&R Service Station in Chinhoyi.

They were joined by Faranando and his friend Kanyenze.

It is at this point that accused persons advised Faranando and Kanyenze that their names were on the list of defaulters to be arrested for failing to repay the inputs loans.

Accused persons demanded a US$1 000 bribe in order to strike off the names from the defaulters’ list.

Musokeri was handed US$15, before telling Faranando to raise the required kickback which they would collect the following day.

On the second count, the complainant is Ludi Zuze, who is also a beneficiary of the inputs loan scheme.

The court heard that on October 3 this year, at around 1 pm at Lion’s Den shops, Zuze, Tennis White, and Raymond Mapambawenyu were advised they were among the list of people who had not paid back for inputs they had received.

On that same day at around 8 pm, Musokeri and Nyahunda arrived at Lion’s Den to meet Zuze and his colleagues.

The two then introduced themselves to Zuze as members of SARACO, who were on an operation to apprehend defaulting clients of the scheme.

Out of fear, Zuze handed over US$100 to Nyahunda.

The pair was arrested after complainants reported the cases to the police.

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