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Webinar: Women, Covid-19 and food systems in Africa

Thursday 1 October 2020 from 13:00–14:00 (CAT)

PLAAS, in partnership with the University of Ghana, University of Pretoria and the Environmental Management and Economic Development Organization, invites you to a webinar on “Women, Covid-19 and food systems in Africa.

The webinar will be chaired by Dr Marc Wegerif of the University of Pretoria and will feature:

  • Professor Akosua Darkwah, University of Ghana (working with women farmers and traders)
  • Refiloe Joala, PLAAS (doing research on food systems and right to food)
  • Editrudith Lukanga, Environmental Management and Economic Development Organization (working with women fish workers including processors and traders)

The discussion will explore these questions:

  • How have African governments’ responses to Covid-19 affected different food systems?
  • How has this affected women in informal markets – as farmers, fishers, traders, vendors?
  • How are women responding and strategising in response?

How governments respond to the Covid-19 crisis holds the potential either to entrench pathways of exclusion or to build local resilience and equity. This webinar will explore what we can learn (so far) from the Covid-19 crisis, and what more needs to be done to respond to the current situation and to build better food systems that work to the benefit of African producers, traders and consumers.

African food systems are in flux, but not in a single direction of change. Some of the profound changes underway are the growing power and reach of multinational corporations in agricultural inputs, significant expansion of medium- and large-scale commercial farming, growing intra- and inter-regional trade and rapid uptake of supermarkets in some countries. Yet these changes are uneven across countries, and are also contested. In some countries, there are reversals, as small-scale farmers and fishers, and traders, defend their access to natural resources, their participation in value chains, and their retail spaces in cities to sell food – and major South African supermarkets have been unable to establish themselves in some African countries, as they compete with local networks and supply chains that are well established. The majority of African farmers and food traders are women, selling fresh produce, staple foods, fish, meat and poultry products across informal and formal markets in much of the continent.

Covid-19, and government responses to it, have altered the course of change in ways that are still becoming clear. Contrary to policy advice to strengthen integration into global value chains, some producers are redirecting produce into local markets, as borders close, markets are disrupted and currencies fluctuate. While some producers have lost markets, others have explored new opportunities, moving into digital and online platforms, or finding new trading niches.

This webinar will feature the experiences of Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania – three countries which exemplify different Covid-19 responses: the South African government swiftly instituted a far-reaching lockdown, intervened decisively in economic activity and trade flows, while the Tanzanian approach has verged on outright denialism. Between the two, Ghana’s government has emphasised community and primary healthcare, short-term and modest restrictions on movement and trade, and limited programme of financial aid and soft loans for producers, aggregators and processors. In addition, South Africa is a highly supermarketised country, with formal food retail dominating in a food system based on large-scale commercial farming, while Tanzania’s food system is smallholder-based and informal. Again, Ghana falls somewhere between these extremes, with smallholders as well as larger producers, and food retail that, while still mostly informal, is undergoing significant supermarket penetration.

As always, policy decisions are shaped by power and politics, and questions of who wins and who loses out need to be investigated on the ground, through participatory research to inform advocacy and action. Join us for the launch of a multi-country collaborative research project, bringing together leading African universities, interdisciplinary social scientists, feminist scholars, and leading activists in civil society organisations. We will also open the floor to hear what participants feel are the big unanswered questions about Covid-19 as both threat and opportunity for centering women’s interests and agency within resilient and equitable African food systems.

Tune in on Thursday 1 October 2020 from:

  • 11:00 – 12:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
  • 12:00 – 13:00 West Africa Time (WAT)
  • 13:00 – 14:00 Central Africa Time (CAT)
  • 14:00 – 15:00 East Africa Time (EAT)

Watch the webinar here: Or click below to view it.