Farming in times of crises: experiences, responses and needs of smallholder farmers during the COVID19 pandemic

  • Research & Development
  • 49.882 project budget
  • Jun 2020 - Aug 2021
  • Donor: Stichting IHE Delft
  • Donor Programme: DGIS - UNESCO-IHE Programmatic Coorperation II

With the COVID19 pandemic, the world is facing an unprecedented crisis. Much of what we took for granted is now uncertain. Yet one thing seems to remain unchanged: marginalized groups in society suffer the most. Among those are smallholder farmers in various parts of the world, including subsistence farmers, landless farm labourers, livestock herders and small-scale agricultural entrepreneurs. These farmers often have little savings to sustain and protect their families and now cannot longer farm as they used to, nor sell their crops at local markets, as result of the – sometimes aggressively enforced – lockdowns. Many of these farmers are not eligible for government support as their work is not considered a formal occupation, because they are not formally registered in their places of residence, or other (bureaucratic) reasons of denial. Moreover, in some cases they also risk to lose the much needed external support from NGOs and CSOs to make their ends meet as the financial resources of these organizations are also highly uncertain in view of the looming economic recession. These circumstances directly affects the short-term food security of these farmers as many cannot safely invest nor plan for the next cropping season, as well as their subsistence and well-being in the long term. Yet, crises also often open up space to renegotiate relations and to reimagine how the world could also be. Therefore this collaborative action-research project aims to gather data and engage with policy advocacy to build resilient, equitable and sustainable futures for smallholder farming communities. More specifically, the objective of this project is to contribute to ensure that the voices of marginalized smallholder farmers are taken into account in policy and aid interventions during the COVID19 crisis and its aftermath by collecting and disseminating scientific evidence of the experiences, responses and needs of these farmers. To achieve this, the project team aims to carry out the following activities, which will be carried out mainly in parallel: 1. Document COVID19 related experiences and impacts 2. Analysis of COVID19 related responses at state, civil society and individual household level 3. Identify the needs of smallholder farmers to build COVID19 resilient strategies 4. Cross-case analysis and joint learning 5. Policy advocacy to make the voices heard Based on the project teams aims to deliver the following outputs: • Policy briefs to disseminate research outcomes to policy makers: we will write at least one in each target country with concrete recommendation to improve the situation of the smallholder farmers during and after the lockdown and throughout the next cropping season(s). Moreover, we aim to draft a generic policy brief for governments and aid agencies involved in emergency operations and engage with relevant policy makers during planned events. • An online photo exhibition with narrated photographs and/or short video clips with stories from the field to give the farmers a voice and a face in the dissemination of the research findings and policy advocacy efforts. • A podcast to disseminate research findings to different audiences and which can be included in educational programmes that engage with building resilient, equitable and sustainable futures. • Several blogs to disseminate research finding to general public in the various countries. Amongst others blogs will be posted on several existing websites (e.g. Flows, Undisciplined Environments,,). We will also post regularly on social media (e.g. active Facebook pages, WhatsApp groups of CSOs/NGOs in our networks) and keep several associated (project) websites (e.g. DUPC, T2GS, Makaam, Soppecom) updated with research activities, findings, events and outputs. • We will engage with local newspapers through press releases and/or interviews to get attention for the project and its findings. • A joint journal article (open access) to share research findings with other scholars both in terms of content of the research as well as a reflection on the research methodologies used to contribute to new methods for qualitative social science during crises when access to field sites is limited. • An established network of (young) scholars and development practitioners to jointly learn on how to support marginalized groups in society during times of crisis, what kinds of new collaborative research methodologies are available during crisis situations, and how to deal with a post-COVID19 research context.


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