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Farmers’ associations are providing essential support to rural communities COVID-19

Farmers’ organisations are protecting lives, securing food supply chains and livelihoods threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. We interviewed a farmer in Zimbabwe and heard from ITGA to understand how.

“Getting produce to markets in Harare was extremely difficult at the beginning of the lockdown. We lost a weekly cash flow of nearly 50%,” said James, a vegetable and livestock small-scale farmer in Goromonzi district, Zimbabwe. “Thankfully, things changed when following consultations with farmers’ associations, the government revisited the restriction to allow the sale of produce at the market, in line with health and hygiene regulations”, he added.

High-value, and especially perishable commodities, such as fresh vegetables, tomatoes and meat produced by James, were particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions on movement prevented farmers like him from accessing markets, resulting in food waste and loss of income. “We lost part of our produce and income, as the produce is perishable, until authorities allowed movement of farmers and their produce plus opening of markets in big urban centres,” adds James.

In Zimbabwe, the farmers’ associations were able to collect information on how coronavirus-related restrictions were negatively affecting their members’ operations and engaged authorities for farming activities to be classified as essential services. Such timely action not only saved farmers from huge losses and destruction of livelihoods, but also highlights the critical role of farmers’ organisations in giving farmers a voice and ensuring food supply chain resilience.

Supporting tobacco farmers during COVID-19

For tobacco farmers, the International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) is working to raise awareness on COVID-19 prevention and symptoms. To come up with its “Together We Care” campaign, ITGA consulted with tobacco farmers across the world to develop specific messages relating to tobacco farming activities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Sharing these messages with farmers and workers, as well as materials which echo the World Health Organisations guidelines on keeping healthy and safe from COVID-19, is critical for rural communities, their survival and food security. The “Together We Care” campaign calls for Governments, UN agencies, NGOs and other entities pay attention to farmers and their families in the context of COVID-19.

“This is a new environment for all the countries and the capacity to adapt and put in place a prevention plan will be key to overturn the situation to a lesser uncontrollable one especially in countries with a fragile health and infrastructure system,” state ITGA.

Remaining committed to fighting child labour during COVID-19

With over 108 million children currently involved in child labour in agriculture and schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that when farmers and their families struggle to make ends meet, they have no choice but to send their children to work to supplement family income. COVID-19 could potentially push millions more vulnerable children into child labour and advice to farmers could make all the difference.

ECLT remains cautious and concerned for the communities with whom we work. We continue to collaborate with partners and staff to follow international and national guidelines on the COVID-19, keeping the best interest of children at the heart of all our work.

Lack of access to education, health services and means to earn an income are key drivers of child labour and are also some of the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. ECLT remains committed to support the farming communities affected by the pandemic, particularly in this time of uncertainty and vulnerability. Check back for updates relating to the impact of COVID on child labour in agriculture and what we are doing to protect rural communities during the pandemic.