60dB Partnership: How are Kenyan Farmers Faring in the Face of COVID-19?

Mar 30, 2021 | Data & Tech Acceleration

We’re proud to be working with 60 Decibels to better understand the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Kenyan farmers. The results of each data round will be shared on this page throughout the next four months. 

March Data Collection Round:

Background:

The COVID-19 pandemic and the government-mandated lockdowns have disrupted agricultural activities across Kenya. Our partner 60 Decibels has been studying Kenyan farmers to understand the impact of the pandemic on their livelihoods and wellbeing through monthly data collection from June 2020-February 2021.  We are now working together with 60 Decibels for four additional rounds of data collection between March and June 2021 and publishing the results of each round on a monthly basis on this page.

Social distancing and closure of non-essential businesses have been key preventative measures but have also disrupted market linkages and squeezed incomes. So far, they have found that nine in ten farming households report being worse off due to the pandemic. 26% of farmers have lost at least one source of income compared to the same time last year. With food being an everyday necessity, the importance of farming has grown over time. 63% of sampled farmers in February 2021 said the importance has increased, the highest it has been since the beginning of data collection. Simultaneously, farmers’ reliance on their farms as a source of food has steadily increased; growing from 25% in June to 50% of farmers in February 2021.

The research further breaks down the different challenges posed by the current pandemic and uncovers the farmers’ greatest needs that can enable them to cope with the current situation. It features the role of digital tools in addressing these challenges including financial inclusion and reconnecting farmers to markets and other opportunities. The research also examines trends in gender-disaggregated data when seeking market information and digital usage.

How are Kenyan Farmers Faring in the Face of COVID-19?

  • Nine in ten farming households report being worse off due to the pandemic. 26% of farmers have lost at least one source of income compared to the same time last year.  
  • While financial stress has increased over time, it appears to have stabilized somewhat since October. Wellbeing improved from 48% ‘much worse’ in December to 47% in February; ‘slightly worse’ increased from 40% in December to 44% in February.
  • There are some signs of future distress. The use of savings and more extreme coping strategies have begun to increase from December to February (use of savings: 56% to 71%; sold or pawned asset: 24% to 39%; borrowed money: 32% to 34%), this could be indicative of farmers running out of financial reserves, increasing future financial distress. And while prices of inputs and food have stabilized, the prices farmers receive for crops continues to decrease, putting future earnings at risk.
  • Consistently high costs are limiting farmers’ use of essential inputs. 70% say essential inputs like fertilizers and seeds are more expensive than normal. Over 51% purchased less inputs and 51% hired less labour in the last two weeks. Overwhelmingly, the reason for these reductions was cost.
  • Farmers want to sell more but are unable to. 8 out of 10 farmers who sold less because of Covid would like to sell more but are unable. 1 from the other 2 sold less by choice (for example, saving food for their family) and 1 sold less for different reasons. 
  • Digital means can be further leveraged to support farmers recovery. Despite the potential of digital means, only 36% of farmers increased their use. In fact, 25% decreased their use, primarily because they don’t have funds to pay digital or lacked access to a device.  
  • Top support farmers are seeking: affordable inputs, access to market – information, transport, buyers, cash! Leniency in existing and new credit would be a welcome respite too. 
  • We found several interesting trends when segmenting by gender. Women were less confident in the next month (30% of females were ‘very confident’ in next month vs. 35% of males), and sold less than male farmers (22% of females sold ‘much less’ produce vs. 19% of males ). When discussing what support they need to increase sales, the top request from women was connection to new buyers (72%) and market information (72%) while men ask for market information (68%). Women asked for cash at a higher proportion than men (44% of females asking for cash vs. 39% of males). We also noted key differences in digital usage, which may affect how female farmers are accessing information and coordinating livelihood activities through digital methods.

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