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The Pandemic on Small African Farmers

Research shows that a disproportionate burden of pandemic-related restrictions has fallen on the world’s poorest. This has raised the question of how to best adapt the mitigation efforts to different types of economies. Researchers conducted more than 9,000 interviews with smallholder farmers from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. The seven countries reflect the diversity of COVID-19 containment measures, and all rely heavily on smallholders for food supply. The containment measures ranged from no restrictions in Burundi and Tanzania, to closures of public spaces, mandatory quarantines, and travel restrictions in Rwanda and Vietnam. This diversity allowed us to assess how the severity of COVID-19 restrictions affected smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and food security. Researchers are not the only ones catching on to this. A recent media analysis of how the pandemic was discussed in five African countries shows that popular media recognised the food insecurity impacts long before many of the scientific studies had been published. Popular narratives framed the situation as a balance between virus containment and food security.