Agrifood systems employ over a billion people, and yet they underperform when it comes to good jobs for many types of workers

The food sector is arguably the world’s largest source of income and employment. The livelihoods of most of the world’s poor and vulnerable people depend on it. Despite many extremely positive contributions, the ways in which food markets are structured and operate often do not support decent livelihoods for farmers and food-sector worker, particularly including women and vulnerable groups.

The One CGIAR Initiative “Rethinking Food Markets and Value Chains for Inclusion and Sustainability” commissioned a meta-study to review the available evidence and to identify knowledge gaps regarding the impacts on employment and income sharing in agrifood systems (AFS) and agrifood value chains (AVC). The underlying hypothesis of the study is that food systems currently underperform in terms of their potential for generating decent jobs and income opportunities, and this gap is only growing with expanding food markets and existing agrifood supply chain business models skewing gains to the disadvantage of smallholders, agrifood SME, and food-sector workers.

Among other findings, the review concludes that:

  1. The structural transformation in many countries in the global South, does not seem to have the same power as it did in the classic European or North American experiences, to create enough jobs that are significantly more productive and rewarding than those in agriculture.
  2. AFS represents a substantial source of employment in low- and middle-income countries. Agriculture is the main AFS employer, although its share is diminishing and non-farm activities within AFS are increasing their share in total AFS employment.
  3. The better employment options in AFS, mainly benefit better off, middle-aged men.
  4. While there are general patterns towards better AFS employment conditions, particular situations vary greatly; policy options must be tailored to each context.
  5. The literature is concentrated in the brighter spots of AFS employment, particularly in modern value chains. Unfortunately, the vast majority of producers, workers, and AFS firms are not part of these bright spots.

How can agrifood systems and value chains be improved to create more and better jobs, including for women and vulnerable people?

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Thanks to everyone who participated in this event. Here is a round-up of questions that we ran out of time to respond to:

  1. How do we increase labor opportunities in rural areas, especially in vulnerable groups? What sectors should we invest in to improve livelihoods?
  2. What would you suggest for better implementation of food systems worldwide that have combined effects on climate change and meeting the SDGs?