“The majority of our work with smallholder farming families usually takes place in coffee farms. In the wake of the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Central America and movement restrictions established by the government, we were initially concerned about no longer being able to reach smallholder families”, admits Mauro Garcia, Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) Co-Country Manager Guatemala. But he was proved wrong.
“At HRNS we did our best in an early stage to inform communities about the Coronavirus. We distributed information on how to protect oneself”, tells Garcia.
With no transportation options and recent prohibitions of public gatherings, activities such as workshops, farmer trainings and farmer field schools are now suspended.“But we did not stop our work”, says Garcia. In response, HRNS immediately started utilizing online platforms. Personal meetings are now taking place via virtual platforms, extensionists are keeping close contact with farmers using SMS-Services and the global team is using digital solutions to plan and implement options for remote working. “We found out that farmer families have even more urgent questions that now come up with the new situation. And we do our best to answer them.” It is about maintaining coffee farms, planning and investing for the upcoming harvest and promoting household food security. All aspects that are accompanied with uncertainties caused by COVID-19.
International Knowledge Sharing and Activity Planning: Virtual Training
Days after the lockdown started, HRNS Central America set up an online community of practice so team members from Central and North America could connect. For two weeks, 32 team members met online to understand the current crisis of farming families in the region and make decisions. Several farmers and leaders of farmer organizations were also invited to voice their current concerns and immediate needs facing farming communities.
In addition, team members also took turns to address and expand on each of the four components HRNS works on (Family Business, Climate Change, Youth, and Farmer Organizations, with a strong focus on gender empowerment throughout all of these areas), to address specific actions that can be carried out to meet the current needs within each of these components.
HRNS colleagues from Central and North America meet online with smallholder farmers and leaders of farmer organizations
Claudia Muñoz, HRNS M&E Manager in Central America stated, “These webinars have allowed the team to enhance HRNS’ approach amid COVID-19 across regions. The HRNS team and farmers decided to create a baseline research study, conduct online virtual trainings, and take next steps in the development of a food security approach.”
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Coffee sustainability for youth uses online classrooms
Despite people being unable to physically meet, HRNS beneficiaries are still receiving technical trainings online, particularly youth in Honduras.
Together with the Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE) and funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), HRNS is helping to carry out a 2-year university technical degree offering sustainable coffee diplomas to 100 young coffee farmers in Honduras. With a series of modules and trainings on business management and coffee sustainability, the degree aims to train youth to become community leaders in thriving coffee regions. Some of the courses explored include, finance, operations management, environmental protection, organizational development and climate change.
For more stories from Muddy Boots about COVID-19 click here.