Project C08, Job Futures: Agriculture, rural transformation and employment

Project Summary

Households in rural Africa typically have diversified income sources. Beyond own farm pro- duction, many also work on other farms as agricultural laborers, have formal or informal employment in other sectors, or pursue self-employed business activities. With rapidly rising population numbers, the diversification of income and employment sources will likely continue in the coming years and decades. Sufficient generation of decent employment in various rural sectors could contribute to sustainable structural transformation and development, whereas inadequate job availability could perpetuate poverty and natural resource degradation. Hence, studying employment trends and the factors that influence current and future job availability, accessibility, and quality needs to be an integral element of “future-making” research in rural Africa. C08 collects and uses survey data from Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, and Zambia, which can lead to important insights under diverse agroecological and socioeconomic conditions. Household- and individual-level data as well as employer data are collected through structured personal interviews. Statistical models are developed and estimated to analyze people’s access to different types of employment, determinants of participation, labour conditions, and effects on income, food security, gender roles, and inequality. Employment trends and their drivers are analysed with panel data. Results contribute to a better understanding of how sustainable job futures in diverse contexts of rural Africa may look like.

Study Regions: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia

Key Questions

1. What income and employment sources do rural households and male and female individuals have, and how are these sources associated with economic and social welfare?

2. To what extent are employment patterns associated with the use of specific agricultural technologies and innovations?

3. What role do rural infrastructure and institutions play for employment?

4. How do labour conditions compare in relevant rural sectors?

5. What are conducive household-level and contextual conditions for sustainable job futures?


Statistical analysis of survey data; regression models; semi-structured interviews with village officials and other key informants; analysis of employer survey data; policy synthesis


Babatunde, R.O., Qaim, M., 2010. Impact of off-farm income on food security and nutrition in Nigeria. Food Policy 35: 303-311.

Chrisendo, D., Krishna, V.V., Siregar, H., Qaim, M., 2020. Land-use change, nutrition, and gender roles in Indonesian farm households. Forest Policy and Economics 118: 102245.

Debela, B.L., Gehrke, E., Qaim, M., 2021. Links between maternal employment and child nutrition in rural Tanzania. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 103: 812-830.

Jäckering, L., Meemken, E.M., Sellare, J., Qaim, M., 2021. Promoting written employment contracts: Evidence from a randomized awareness campaign. European Review of Agricultural Economics48: 1007-1030.

Meemken, E.M., Barrett, C.B., Michelson, H.C., Qaim, M., Reardon, T., Sellare, J., 2021. Sustainability standards in global agrifood supply chains. Nature Food 2: 758-765.

Meemken, E.M., Sellare, J., Kouame, C., Qaim, M., 2019. Effects of Fairtrade on the livelihoods of poor rural workers. Nature Sustainability 2: 635-642.

Mehraban, N., Kubitza, C., Alamsyah, Z., Qaim, M., 2021. Oil palm cultivation, household welfare, and exposure to economic risk in the Indonesian small farm sector. Journal of Agricultural Economics 72: 901-915.

Rao, E.J.O., Qaim, M., 2013. Supermarkets and agricultural labor demand in Kenya: A gendered perspective. Food Policy 38: 165-176.

Ruml, A., Qaim, M., 2021. New evidence regarding the effects of contract farming on agricultural labor use. Agricultural Economics 52: 51-66.

Subramanian, A., Qaim, M., 2010. The impact of Bt cotton on poor households in rural India. Journal of Development Studies 46: 295-311.

Partner Institutions

University of Nairobi

Sokoine University

University of Namibia

University of Zambia