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Agricultural livelihoods and food security in the context of COVID-19: Results from household surveys in 11 countries with high pre-existing levels of food insecurity

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The assessment presented in this report uses livelihood survey data collected by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) from June to November 2020 in 11 highly food insecure countries.

These efforts have led to the assembly of the survey data into one of the largest datasets so far used to look at coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related impacts on rural and agricultural livelihoods. It contributes to the growing body of evidence by focusing specifically on agricultural households, and sheds new light on the impact of COVID-19 and other shocks on the lives and livelihoods of these households. All countries selected appear in the list of “food crisis countries” published annually by the multi-agency Food Security Information Network (FSIN). These countries are Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

This report shows that the enforcement of COVID‑19‑related restrictions has reduced the incomes of agricultural producers as well as their food security with an impact comparable to that of major shocks, such as conflict or natural disasters. The overall decrease in income was particularly high for vegetable and fish producers whose products are highly perishable, highlighting how movement restrictions and consequent transportation delays of agricultural goods affected these groups the most, causing severe losses that could not be compensated once restrictions were lifted. Livestock producers were also among the most severely affected by the restrictions, however the impact for many of them has been cushioned though either delayed sales or through asset depletion, which can lead to a cycle of poverty. As the pandemic and associated restrictions continue, both supply and demand‑side measures are necessary.

This report is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this report are the sole responsibility of FAO and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.