covid farmer
©Nomonde Buthelezi/ 08.04.2020

COVID-19 - Impact on Local Food Systems

Farmer Led research: (Urban) Farming, Food Justice and Co-Research on Covid-19 lock-down impact on local food systems Participatory Community Research with farmers in Indonesia, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.


The covid-19 outbreak is spreading rapidly across the globe, forcing national governments to take decisions that have adverse effects on globalized food systems and supply chains. Border closures are disrupting commodity flows and labor force availability. As a result, food producers have difficulties harvesting and selling their produce. Informal economies and social welfare programs have also been affected, with detrimental effects on the most poor and vulnerable.

However, farmers in the Global South are not “passive victims” of the crisis. As Nomnonde Buthelezi, an urban farmer from a township in Cape Town, put it:

The increasing number of confirmed covid-19 cases worldwide is a cause of great concern. But we don't want to be just a mere figure in this crisis. We want to share what we farmers can do to maintain our local food systems after the lockdown.

Hence, Buthelezi initiated this research by approaching the SLE in March 2020. She mobilized marginalized farmers in her township to participate in this research, and the SLE additionally mobilized farmers from Zimbabwe, Indonesia, and Mozambique.

Research Goal

The goal of this farmer- led research is to examine a) the challenges b) coping strategies, and c) innovations of local food producers and city dwellers during the Covid19 pandemic.

Participatory Research

The research for this study is farmer- led, meaning that farmers themselves collect the data, co- design the research, and identify innovative coping techniques to deal with the crisis. Using digital survey tools, the data is collected from producer groups in selected urban and rural centres in South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia on a weekly basis during the national lockdowns.


The data will be summarized, compared and analyzed by Nicole Paganini and Dr. Silke Stöber of the Seminar für Ländliche Entwicklung, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and published in different outputs, such as a SLE Briefing paper, an opinion piece and a journal paper.

Project on Research Gate:

COVID-19 Measures: Co-Research on impacts on local food systems in Cape Town/South Africa, Masvingo/Zimbabwe, Maputo/Mozambique and Toraja and Java, Indonesia

The project brief can be downloaded here.

Contact: Dr. Silke Stöber


Cape Town Farmers at Heart:

Mama Hazel and Nozibele are farmers in Mfuleni township 40 km from Cape Town. Their coping strategies to the Covid-19- lockdown: preparing new vegetable gardens and opening a food bank.