COVID-19- Changes in Employment, Income, and Food Security in Mali


April 15, 2021 - Leonidas Murembya, Veronique Theriault, Yenizie Kone

Executive Summary

The purpose of this paper is to examine the changes in household employment, income, and food security in Mali as the government imposed and later relaxed restrictive measures aimed at containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These measures included curfews, house confinements, domestic and international travel restrictions, as well as the closure of schools, bars and night clubs, and non-essential markets.

Two nationally representative datasets, collected through cellphones, are utilized. The first dataset includes information on 1,900 households and was conducted by the Malian National Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), as a complement to the regular harmonized survey on household living conditions (EHCVM)) funded by the World Bank. The second dataset include information on 800 households and was conducted by Michigan State University.

Results from the INSTAT survey indicate that about 90% of the households reported that at least one member had a job before the pandemic. The rate fell to 75% of the households immediately after the pandemic hit. Job cuts occurred in almost all sectors of the economy but were the most felt in trade. Almost all sources of income showed declines in April, except for pensions and transfers from NGOs and private charities. In May, income of all categories started to increase as the government began relaxing the containment restrictive measures. However, as the COVID pandemic prolonged in June, more and more households reported a stop in some sources of income, including assistance from the government and NGOs.

The INSTAT survey used nine metrics to gauge households’ food insecurity: increased food stock, fear of not having enough food, eating less nutritious or less varied food, skipping a meal, eating reduced portions, having nothing to eat at home, going hungry, and having no meal all day. There was an apparent spike in the share of households in all the nine categories immediately after the pandemic hit in April. Although these proportions slightly declined in subsequent months, they remained relatively high. For example, 50% of the households who indicated not having a meal all day said it was because of COVID-19.

Results from both the INSTAT and MSU-IFPRI survey indicated that 8 in 10 rural households were engaged in farm activities (farming and on-farm labor). Furthermore, the MSU-IFPRI survey showed that of all households reporting earning income from farming activities, 63 percent were in rural areas. The top-ranked source of income for urban households was in non-farm wage labor activities. Most earning types came from self-employment.

Households in the food supply chain experienced income declines. In May, less than one percent of rural households engaged in food transport delivery reported an income increase. No urban household experienced income improvement in May.

By July, less than two percent of rural households in the food transport and delivery, receiving remittances, and engaged in farming reported some income increases. In urban areas, less than one percent of households in the trade of farm/food products and in professional work reported income increase. Households in all other activities in the food supply chain continued to experience income declines. Because of declining incomes, the rate of household poverty rose by two percentage points from May to July, with poverty affecting 20% of all Malian households.

The declining incomes were also associated with some reductions in food consumption. Compared to the previous year, the consumption of almost all food items considered in the survey remained the same or fell. Starchy staples experienced the greatest decline, followed by meat, chicken, and fish and then by whole grains. The proportions of households which identified the fear of COVID-19 as a reason for less consumption were 15 percent and 17 percent in rural and urban areas, respectively. A small number of households reported an increase in food consumption, particularly whole grains. The number one reason for the increase was higher production of the items.

About half of households in both rural and urban areas obtain their foods from public markets (46 and 47 percent, respectively). Public markets do not include traditional stores, food stalls, and restaurants, among other things. After the pandemic hit, although the distribution of respondents across the different sources of foodstuffs changed, the rankings have remained virtually the same.

Considering the above, it is imperative that the Malian government continues to implement a COVID-19-Food Security Assistance Program (COVID-FSAP) targeting vulnerable populations through the Food Security Agency (Commissariat à la Sécurité Alimentaire), within the Office of the President. In addition, the government should strengthen the National nutrition program to reduce COVID-19 consequences on household nutrition. If possible, follow-up surveys should be conducted to evaluate the changes in income and food security a year from the time the pandemic hit in mid-March 2020, as the vaccine becomes available to the population and containment restrictions are fully lifted.


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