J is for jobs

J is for jobs

Date: 28 September 2014

Agriculture currently employs about 65% of Africa’s population, but the figure is likely to continue to fall given current speeds of rural to urban migration (40% of African people live in urban areas at the moment but the figure will be more than 50% by 2030). Because of this, it is critical that opportunities for employment in rural areas are developed and that the livelihoods of smallholder farmers are supported. Small-scale producers are the cornerstones of local and sustainable food systems.

Supporting them will also help to prevent the ‘urbanisation of poverty’: according to the World Bank, although more and more people in Africa have moved to cities, overall levels of poverty have not been reduced. Not only could job creation in rural areas help to slow down rural-to-urban migration, but there is evidence that creating jobs in agriculture can often be cheaper than creating jobs in other sectors of the economy.

There is also a pervasive myth that large-scale farms are more efficient and productive than smaller ones. Although total yields on large farms can sometimes be higher (per hectare) than small farms, smaller farms usually cost less to run: labour on small farms tends to be cheaper than the cost of machinery on larger farms. Because smaller farms tend to be less mechanised, they usually employ more people per hectare than industrial farms. Farmers are also more likely to have control over their resources and livelihood on a small farm compared to working as labourers on larger farms where they may be exploited. Therefore, investing in small-scale agroecological farming can have an important impact on protecting and creating jobs, but also on giving farmers more control over their lives. The United Nations estimates that by ‘greening agriculture’ (transforming it into sustainable agriculture), 47 million jobs over the next 40 years could be created.

Photo credit: UNMIL / Christopher Herwig

About the A-Z of food sovereignty project

The A-Z of Food Sovereignty in Africa shows the positive alternatives to corporate-led agriculture. A new letter was posted each day in the lead up to World Food Day arrived on 16 October 2014.

Africa’s small-scale food producers already know how to produce enough food sustainably to feed themselves but the political and economic rules which govern the food system are set against them. These rules are written by and for multinational companies and political elites, in support of a global food system that benefits them rather than the millions of smallholders and family farmers who produce the food and get little in return.