Pandemic updates from farmer partners (5/7/20)

By Felicity Butler

POSTED 7th May 2020

As #WorldFairTradeDay approaches, we say THANK YOU to the producers and workers around the world who work hard to ensure we have food on our shelves! #FairtradeTogether. Here is a status update from the producers we work with during COVID-19.

Kuapa Kokoo, Ghana:

  • 3,091 cases
  • 18 deaths
  • 303 recoveries reported

In April, Ghana implemented a three-week lockdown in Ghana’s two major cities, Accra and Kumasi to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Since then, Ghana has been the first country in Africa to ease the lockdown measures, and daily life is now gradually returning to normal. Kuapa Kokoo has returned to work and field activities have begun again, following social distancing protocols set by the government and Kuapa. Field officers and farmers are being asked to adhere to compulsory measures to observe physical distance, wear masks and use hand sanitisers regularly. PS&D project work on labour rights and literacy will therefore resume this week.

Kasinthula Cane Growers’ Association, Malawi:

  • 43 cases
  • 3 deaths
  • 14 recoveries reported

Malawi was one of the last countries in the world to announce a case of Corona virus and a lockdown was planned, but the High Court blocked it and the people protested. Ndiuzayani Zaya from Kasinthula says: “There is no lockdown because people demonstrated against the lockdown idea. We could have died of hunger since people rely on small businesses, we need to earn a living. Famine is the biggest concern for farmers."

However, whilst the last proposed lockdown was overruled, it is unclear if another proposal would be blocked in future. Either way, our partners have reported that the agricultural sector would be able to continue and that they have obtained permits for staff and vehicle movements. In the meantime, all operations continue at Kasinthula, however under strict COVID-19 protocols established by management.

The sugar mill opened for the season on the 2nd May and the first deliveries of sugar cane to the mill happened this week - so far 2,200 MT has been delivered. Kasinthula is estimated to deliver over double the amount of sugar cane this year compared to last year (target for this year is 81,700 MT), which will be excellent progress in the middle of a global pandemic.

Kasinthula has also continued replanting sugar cane and has already replanted 35 hectares of the 377 hectares planned for 2020. The aim is that 57% of the entire area will have been replanted by October 2020.

Unfortunately, the current price of sugar will prove challenging for farmers though, as it is currently 220,000 Malawian kwacha per MT, which is down from Mk 305,000 paid in April 2019 for the 2018 delivery.

Ngoleagorbu Cocoa Farmers’ Union, Sierra Leone:

  • 225 cases
  • 14 deaths
  • 43 recoveries recorded

Sierra Leone has implemented several 3-day full lockdowns, the second of which has just been lifted. There has also been an ongoing partial lockdown/curfew throughout this period, which still continues, including interstate travel restrictions, border closures and school closures. The 3-day lockdowns have allowed for a concerted effort on contract tracing, which has been a key focus of the response to COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.

For now, all positive COVID-19 cases are being transferred to Freetown, and national mandates—border closures, a three-month closure of Sierra Leone’s airport, and periodic countrywide lockdowns—are aiming to control the potential spread of the virus. Plans for additional treatment centres, for both mild and severe cases, are in development.

Sierra Leone is to receive USD 7.5 million from the World Bank to support the COVID-19 response.

Our partners say contact tracing has been a very visible part of the government’s response. One partner reported that the ‘COVID-19 Response team’ had come to collect someone suspected to have coronavirus for transfer to Freetown just opposite their office (see photo below). One colleague told us: “The contact tracing seems to be going well because primary contacts are the main focus; they are traced and quarantined at the moment”.

Given the history of the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone focused on preparation and proactive measures from the start, weeks before COVID-19 arrived. There has also been a holistic approach - the training that have been undertaken at a national level are not only about science and health systems, but also compassion, as anxiety runs particularly high amid an infectious disease pandemic, and especially because of the trauma of Ebola.

Radio has been a key resource for sharing information on the virus, and we look forward to beginning collaborating with the Lorna Young Foundation shortly on a Farmers’ Voice Radio programme with the farmers of Ngoleagorbu in the Gola Rainforest. See more about the project in Sierra Leone here: https://golarainforest.film/

CECAQ-11, São Tomé and Príncipe:

  • 174 cases
  • 4 deaths recorded

São Tomé and Príncipe was the 52nd African country to record cases of COVID-19. The pandemic is taking a heavy toll on São Tomé and Príncipe, with tourism and externally financed projects halted and international supply chains disrupted.

The challenging circumstances are further exacerbated by the fragility of the economy and a weak health care system. To address this crisis, the IMF has approved about USD 12 million of emergency assistance for São Tomé and Príncipe. The authorities have acted swiftly by developing a contingency plan and declaring a state of emergency to help contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Our partners tell us they are working at 50% capacity and are very concerned about food security and forecasted food shortages, given that no boats or planes are allowed to arrive on the island.

CECAQ-11 has begun distributing food and seeds to its members, and in light of this we are in conversations with CECAQ-11 about redirecting PS&D funds to support these efforts.