African Union, Cirad, FAO and ILO discuss action plan for new initiative on job-rich recovery in agriculture and agri-systems in Africa

The initiative “JobAgri” aims to fill evidence gaps in the labour content of the agriculture and agri-food sectors to create decent employment. Supported by innovative knowledge generation on the quality and quantity of labour in Africa’s agri-food sector, the programme provides guidance on policy and investments for a job-rich recovery.

News | Global | 15 March 2023
Representatives of the African Union Commission, ILO, Cirad, and FAO

GENEVA (ILO News) – The ILO hosted representatives of the African Union (AU), the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (Cirad) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for a two-day meeting to discuss and finalize the next stage of their joint initiative that aims to fill the evidence gap related to labour in farming and agricultural activities.

The programme “JobAgri - Understanding and measuring the labour content in agriculture and agri-food chains in Africa: Improved knowledge for informed policy making and investment” supports policy dialogue, design and implementation backed by innovative knowledge generation on the quality and quantity of labour in Africa’s agri-food sector.

It aims to fill evidence gaps by examining unknown labour contents – conditions of work, returns to labour (wages, incomes, profitability), and the distribution of labour according to gender and age – to support policy by identifying the best development options in different contexts, for different types of farms and value chains and to provide guidance on investments. This includes informed policies for more and better jobs in the agri-food sector that are responding to future of work challenges, especially for youth and women.

More than 60 per cent of today’s labour force is engaged in agriculture-related activities in sub-Saharan Africa. In North African countries, while the share of employment in agriculture has decreased over the last 25 years, a relatively important share of the labour force in some countries remains employed in the sector. In this context, the evolution of the agri-food sector and its capacity to create decent employment is crucial for a transition towards a sustainable development model for the region. Options for the development of the agri-food sector are widely studied and tested. Their ability to generate decent jobs and further social justice, on the other hand, are much less so.

During the two-day workshop, held on 13-14 March, concrete next steps for the JobAgri programme, which will operate for a period of four to five years, were further detailed. These included a discussion on a pilot phase of the project in one or two counties, to better calibrate the intervention model and complete its operational and financial set-up. Development partners interested in the programme, participated virtually in a dedicated session where the representatives of the AU and the other JobAgri partners also briefed about the vision and action plan of the initiative.

Speakers at the high-level event included Sukti Dasgupta, Chief, Employment, Labour Markets and Youth Branch, ILO who welcomed the participants. This was followed by opening remarks from Dr Janet Mfon Edeme, Head, Rural Development Division, and Sabelo Mbokazi, Head of the Labour, Employment and Migration Division of the African Union Commission. Day one focused attention on the process for selecting countries participating in the programme, governance structure , and key technical specifications.

“The JobAgri initiative has the African Union Commission’s unwavering support,” Dr Edeme said. “It would be important for demand in the specific country and region to inform the country selection process.”

Bruno Losch, Jean-Michel Sourisseau and Pierre Girard represented Cirad, whereas the FAO was represented by Peter Wobst and Marwan Benali. Peter Van Rooij, the ILO Deputy Regional Director for Africa also joined the meeting and provided key inputs with regards to operationalizing the pilot phase.

Day two discussions focused attention on the pilot phase of the JobAgri programme, with a deep dive on the specifics of the intervention model and the need to evaluate policy windows in selecting the pilot countries.

“We need to focus on the employment potential in strategic value chains while capturing the diversity of agri-food systems,” said Sukti Dasgupta. Meanwhile, Sangheon Lee, Director, Employment Policy, Job Creation & Livelihoods Department said, “I commend the outcomes of the workshop and I hope that the pilot phase will serve as a proof of concept for JobAgri in providing labour content evidence and informing policy dialogue towards structural transformation of agriculture and agri-food systems in Africa.”

The meeting concluded with an agreement by the partners on the next steps and a commitment to fast-tracking the pilot phase of JobAgri.