COVID-19’s impact on agriculture systems in Africa

In a recent survey, the Sasakawa Africa Association heard from 433 key actors in African agriculture about the impacts the pandemic has had across the continent.

June 23, 2020

The productivity and sustainability of our agriculture and food systems are constantly threatened by pandemic outbreaks of disease and pests. The Harvest 2050 blog is providing a weekly-updated list of resources and articles that explore the threats to agricultural productivity, food security, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability from diseases and pests that sicken and kill people, livestock, and crops.

The 2020 GAP Report will also explore these themes, as well as describing technologies, practices, and policies that foster productivity growth, while also mitigating the risks of pandemic disease and threats. 

We will keep this list current, so follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn, where we’ll share as we update this blog. Past resource lists are available here, and linked at the bottom of each blog.


A survey across African countries brings pandemic impacts to light 

Guest blog by Sasakawa Africa Association

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to expand rapidly. It has severely disrupted supply chains, created significant volatility in global financial markets and changed the communication and business landscape. Governments across the globe are tasked with minimizing the impact of the pandemic, whilst also protecting human lives, livelihoods, and ensuring sufficient food availability along the entire food supply chain. 

The agriculture sector of African countries, in particular, is extremely vulnerable to the pandemic – with millions at risk of being deprived of their livelihoods. Records show the number of cases on the continent continuing to rise, with 306,567 official cases and 8,115 fatalities reported, as of the most recent data available on June 21, 2020.

The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) recently conducted an assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on African food systems. The survey was conducted virtually with key actors across the agriculture value chain, and covered the countries in which SAA operates: Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda (SAA focus countries); as well as Benin, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. 

Results of the assessment showcase the negative impact COVID-19 is having across the agriculture sector, including on productivity, delivery of extension services, and food security. A total of 433 respondents were surveyed, with key findings from the focus countries available below.


A woman stands in a field and smiles for a photo.
Janet Ushie, a recent graduate and member of the Re-build Nigeria Multipurpose Cooperative Society, plans to adopt modern farming techniques on rice farming using productivity-increasing technologies introduced by Sasakawa Africa Association in Nigeria. Credit: Sasakawa Africa Association

In Nigeria: 

  • 88% of farmers surveyed cannot access their farms
  • 83% have not received extension services training
  • 71% could not obtain pre- and postharvest handling services
  • 76% of agro-processors cannot access raw materials due to limited market availability 
  • 67% observed a sharp decline in rice milling services, among other staple crops


A woman poses for a photo while standing next to her table filled with bottles of juice.
Awa Maiga is a second-year student at Samanko Agricultural College in Mali. She is enrolled in a two-year diploma program supported by the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE). As part of the SAFE Curriculum, she is carrying out her Supervised Enterprise Project (SEPs). She is engaged in juice processing, a technology she plans to transfer to women’s groups to build up their income and livelihoods. Credit: Sasakawa Africa Association

In Mali:

  • 92% are expecting poor crop productivity this season
  • 85% of extension agents have experienced difficulty accessing farmers
  • 91% of input traders experienced agricultural input scarcity 
  • 60% of output traders observed reduced availability of produce
  • 50% of respondents reported reduced sales


Two men work together with a blue husking machine.
Steven Seruma is a young and successful farmer engaged in private service provision of agro-processing machinery. He provides private maize shelling service for smallholder farmers in his community and the surrounding villages in Nakeseke district, Uganda. He owns motorized maize shellers which has helped to increase maize grain quality, reduced labor drudgery and cost related to manual shelling operations, and increased income and livelihoods of farmers. Credit: Sasakawa Africa Association

In Uganda:

  • 36% suffered from reduced household food rations, with 17% reducing the number of daily household meals
  • 83% of farmers surveyed have not received any extension services since the beginning of the pandemic in March. 
  • 86% of input and output dealers reported a decrease in sales 
  • 87% of agriculture private service providers (PSPs) experienced a lack of demand for their services 
  • 75% experienced unreliable transport with increased costs


A woman smiles for a photo while standing in a field and holding a stack of Teff, a staple crop in Ethiopia that looks similar to wheat.
Mrs. Shunka Chale is from Negele Arsi Woreda, Oromia Region, Ethiopia. She adopted technologies introduced by Sasakawa Africa Association – Ethiopia which has improved her productivity. She was introduced to new approaches such as fertilizer application techniques and improved varieties of Teff (a staple crop in Ethiopia). Credit: Sasakawa Africa Association

In Ethiopia:

  • 75% believe the pandemic will affect their food security
  • 83% are unable to access extension services 
  • 60% of output traders reported a deficiency in grain stock levels
  • 60% of agriculture private service providers (PSPs) reported shortages and price increases of raw materials, resulting in reduced sales of processed grains


The assessment also explored the impact felt by financial institutions in the sector. In Nigeria, 89% of respondents reported a decrease in loan deposits made by farmers, and 67% failed to collect loan repayments altogether. Farmers in Mali observed a decline in their income which in turn affects their ability to secure credit by banks. Both Nigeria and Mali reported a sharp decline in rural credit flow to farmers. Similar results were recorded in Ethiopia where 75% of financial institutions are affected by the slow loan disbursement and repayment performances, with 30% of farmers having experienced limited access to credit. Respondents in Uganda also reported a steep decline in the number of farmers and PSPs seeking credit.

The survey also showed that teaching-and learning processes of the universities and agricultural colleges has been significantly reduced, with a far-reaching impact on the overall education cycle and increased food and nutrition insecurity in Africa.

In response to the findings, SAA has sought to propose measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in its countries of operation. These proposals include, among others, scaling up capacity building, enhancing knowledge transfer, and the dissemination of appropriate agriculture technologies and equipment. Once adopted, these measures will work to improve food security both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.


A man squats next to a plant, smiling as his photo is taken.
Mr. AKwora Ojang, 67, is from Alesi, Ikom Local Government in Cross River State, Nigeria. His group, the Okpaghatim Multi-Purpose Cooperative, adopted the inter-cropping technology (Maize and Cassava) and demonstrated it on their farm. The group has 25 members. Among these, 15 are women. The group started working with Sasakawa Africa Association in Nigeria in 2019. Credit: Sasakawa Africa Association


Further Reading

SAA’s response to the impacts of COVID-19 on food systems in Africa (Sasakawa Africa Association News; June 8, 2020)

  • More information on SAA’s work and the rapid assessment explored in this blog post.

U.S. farming body and Zambian firm partner aim to boost crop yields (Reuters; June 21, 2020)

  • “The chairman of African Green Resources (AGR), Zuneid Yousuf, said the private sector deal with U.S-based African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) included a scheme supporting 250,000 mainly subsistence farmers to double their maize yields and help feed around 10 million people in Zambia and the southern African region.”

Economic impact of COVID-19: Protecting Africa’s food systems from farm to fork (Brookings Institute; June 19, 2020)

  • In this in-depth article, the Brookings Institute examines a range of issues affecting Africa in the wake of the pandemic — including rising food prices and lockdowns and their impact on the informal sector — and how Africans are finding solutions to mitigate the impact of these challenges.

Addressing Gender-Based Violence from an Agriculture Perspective Amid COVID-19 and Beyond (Agrilinks; June 15, 2020)

  • Gender-based violence is estimated to be on the rise worldwide as lockdowns create added tension in communities. This has implications for agriculture systems, but efforts in Rwanda, Malawi, and Mozambique highlighted in the article illuminate opportunities to integrate gender-based violence as a component to development projects.

In Kenya, Two Heroes Weathering the Covid-19 Storm Together (The Rockefeller Foundation Blog; May 13, 2020)

  • Opened in 2018, the Karurumo Processing Center in Kenya helps to reduce post-harvest crop loss. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the center is finding ways to help reduce shocks to farmers’ livelihoods and help feed the nation.



Past Resource Lists

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