Youth and women's employment in the food economy

A survey of 700 producers, processors, traders & youth and women in the Niayes region, Senegal

In partnership with the Dakar-based think tank Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale (IPAR), the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) conducted a survey among producers, processors, traders as well as youth and women in the Niayes region in Senegal in order to produce new data and to better understand the local food economy and employment dynamics in the region. The survey also aimed to better understand the employment opportunities offered to youth and women, their constraints and their aspirations. The work of SWAC aims to support policy makers in the implementation of policies to foster job creation in West Africa with a focus on the food economy. The final report will be available in spring 2021 and the first results are presented below.

The food economy dominates youth employment in the Niayes region

In the Niayes region, 64% of employed youth work in the food economy. Almost half of these youth (45%) work in off-farm activities, in food processing, food marketing and food-away-from-home services which include restaurants, street food, etc... Young workers are particularly active — more than 33% of employed youth have a second job and 41% work more than 60 hours a week.

A dynamic agri-food sector

The involvement of young people in the agri-food sector happens in the context of fast urban growth and strong demand growth for food in cities. The Niayes region is a hub for horticultural production (onions, tomatoes, cabbages, other fruits and vegetables). Although most farms in Niayes are small-scale, market orientation is strong — 86% of food production is sold on markets. 64% of surveyed food producers locate the final consumer of their products in the agglomeration of Dakar and 56% report growth in their business over the past five years underlining the pace of transformations.

High seasonality and mobility of labour demand and workers

41% of youth working in the food economy in the Niayes come from another region in Senegal and 7% from another country. Seasonality of agricultural production is an important driver of mobility — youth working in agriculture come from further away than youth working in the downstream segments of food value chains.

Women dominate employment in off-farm food activities

77% of all employed women in Niayes are in the food economy. Among women employed in the food economy, 63% are in food marketing, 25% in agriculture and 7% in food processing.

The presence of women is particularly strong in off-farm activities: 98% of workers in food processing are women, while only 8% of surveyed farmers in Niayes are women.

In this context, constraints reported by women food processors and traders have particular importance. The top three constraints reported by women entrepreneurs regarding the expansion of their business activities are: harshness of competition and low sales prices (30%), poor access to credit (23%), and input prices (11%).

Skills and skills matching for a transforming food economy

The survey shows that, currently, farmers, food processors and food traders mostly look for soft skills when they recruit youth. Only 9% of producers look for a specific training or diploma, which could point to potential mismatches between the training schemes that are on offer and the needs of local food economies.

Despite the low emphasis on training on the labour demand side, 59% of youth in Niayes are desirous of receiving training in agri-food subjects. Access to training schemes aligned with the realities of local economies is crucial to empower youth and support food system transformations in the region.