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Majority of African Farm Workers Struggle to Afford Food

Majority of African Farm Workers Struggle to Afford Food

Farm workers less satisfied with water quality; report health problems

by Bob Tortora

This is the second in a series of articles about agricultural workers in sub-Saharan Africa to coincide with the United Nations International Year of Family Farming.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although many of them grow food for a living, farm workers in sub-Saharan Africa are among the most likely to report problems affording food for their own families. More than half of the region's 85 million farm workers (58%) said in 2012 that they did not have enough money at times to buy the food they and their families needed. Fewer non-farm laborers (47%) and fewer of those who are not working (51%) reported these same struggles.

Farm Workers Struggle to Afford Food, Sub-Saharan Africa, 2012

These results are based on nationally representative face-to-face Gallup World Poll surveys in 29 countries in sub-Saharan Africa conducted in 2012. Respondents who said they were employed for an employer or reported being self-employed were asked to provide their general job type. Those who identified themselves as farmers, farm workers, aquaculture or hatchery workers, fishermen, deck hands on a fishing boat, lumberjacks, or forest management workers were asked a follow-up question, "Do you work on a farm? That is, a place that grows crops or raises livestock, poultry, or fish?" Gallup classified those who answered "yes" to this question as farm workers. It is important to note that the estimates of the size of the farm worker population are not estimates of the farm labor force because the data include all adults and do not exclude adults who would be omitted in labor force estimates.

Farm Workers Also Struggling With Water Quality

Previous Gallup research shows that sub-Saharan Africans who have enough clean water to drink are more likely to have enough food to eat, and that urban Africans are more likely than rural Africans to be satisfied with their water quality. It is not that surprising, then, that farm workers are the least satisfied with the quality of water in their communities. Less than half of farm workers (45%) said they were satisfied with the quality of their water, significantly fewer than the 52% of non-farm workers who were satisfied. Half of nonworking adults (50%) felt satisfied with their water quality.

Farm Workers Least Satisfied With Water Quality, Sub-Saharan Africa, 2012

Sixty-seven percent of farm workers who report being dissatisfied with the quality of their water said there were times in the last 12 months when they did not have enough money for food, compared with 54% of non-farm workers who were dissatisfied with their water quality and 57% of those who are not working.

Farm Workers Also Struggling With Health

Sub-Saharan Africans who are dissatisfied with the water quality in their city or area are also more likely to be dissatisfied with their health. Even though rural residents tend to be more dissatisfied with the quality of their water than urban residents, this relationship between dissatisfaction with quality of water and health still exists even after accounting for urban and rural effects.

Alongside these findings, farm workers are more likely to report having health problems that prevent them from doing things other people their age do. Twenty-six percent of farm workers report they have such health problems, significantly higher than the 19% of non-farm workers, but on par with the 25% of the not-working population.

One in Four Farm Workers Has Health Issues, Sub-Saharan Africa, 2012

Bottom Line

With the population of sub-Saharan Africa projected to double by 2050, the ability of the farm workforce to meet the rising food demand and to help reduce poverty through agricultural growth is in serious jeopardy. Farm workers typically have the least education, the lowest income, and the largest families. The problems that this population of vital workers has in achieving the basics -- food, water, and good health -- illustrate the daunting task that civil society, nongovernmental organizations, national governments, and the business community face in raising their quality of life.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 30,999 adults in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Congo Brazzaville, Congo Kinshasa, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, aged 15 and older. All surveys were conducted between February and December 2012 in each country.

The margin of error ranges from ±1 percentage point to ±4 percentage points for percentages.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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