It’s been more than 100 days under quarantine and strict mobility restrictions. As many European countries start to lift coronavirus containment measures, cases are just starting to reach the highest peak in Central America. Health systems are vulnerable, and uncertainty is high, especially for smallholder farming families.
Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung Central America (HRNS AM) adapted their activities and structured an in-depth strategy from the very start. Their strategy responds to COVID-19 and supports smallholder families in three underlying areas: health including safety equipment, food security and virtual training.
“Our three areas of focus address the immediate short and long-term challenges smallholders are facing in the region”, states Pablo Ruiz, HRNS AM Country Co-Manager. “Our strategy will continue to adapt based on how the pandemic unfolds to make sure our approach is successful.”
Health and safety equipment
“During the month of May, we distributed 11,000 facemasks, hygiene products, infra-red thermometers and personal protective equipment in the form of safety kits to 4 Health Centers and 40 farmer organizations we work with in Guatemala and Honduras”, describes Belkis Vicente from HRNS AM. These safety kits have provided more than 1,580 smallholder families with the necessary safety equipment to take appropriate safety measures and help them carry out their daily activities as best as possible given the current situation.
In Guatemala and the Trifinio Region of Honduras, COVID-19 has further compromised families’ ability to ensure they have access to nutritious food supporting an active, healthy life. HRNS’ food security strategy aims to reach 800 smallholder families and 40 organizations, promoting short- and long-term crop diversification, establishment of family gardens and livestock production.
“We are working together with farming families to ensure they have access to sufficient and nutritious crops that meet their dietary needs by establishing family gardens and diversifying their agricultural production systems” explains Gerson López, HRNS AM technician. Short-term crops that usually grow between 45 to 60 days such as corn, beans and yucca are being planted. “Medium term cash crops such as lime, plantain and avocado are also being grown simultaneously to help smallholders have additional income in 1-4 years.”
As part of this strategy, HRNS AM is working together with farmer organizations to establish new microenterprises that focus on livestock production. “We’ve been providing farmer organizations with juvenile fish and helped them set up hatcheries”, says López. Organization members are currently managing the hatcheries and will then sell the fish to aquaculture facilities so they can reach harvest size. This will become an additional source of income for farming families. As further support, certified seeds that are more tolerant to pests and diseases, other crops to be used for diversification, and farm inputs such as organic fertilizers are also being delivered to organizations.
Online platforms and the use of digital solutions to reach smallholder families despite the pandemic continues to be part of HRNS’ AM central strategy during COVID-19. In parallel with online communication, the team has focused on adapting training processes by developing short videos as training material for farming families and farmer organizations. “These videos have been made so that farmers can still receive technical training in a digital and practical way, and still carry out activities with ease from home after watching a 3-minute video”, says Javier Rivas, HRNS Project Coordinator. “20 videos on good agricultural practices, financial management and entrepreneurship among other topics have been distributed so far.”
Other activities taking place to promote digital connectivity include the distribution of televisions to farmer organizations to facilitate virtual trainings, hosting technical diplomas programs on coffee production online, and a four-week webinar series on Innovation in Coffee Communities. “Over these webinars, we shared our immediate responses to COVID-19 to the private sector and examined each of the components of our Theory of Change”, says Ruiz.
HRNS AM appreciates the ongoing support of its partners and donors who continue to stand by smallholder farming families during COVID-19.
HRNS’ engagement in Central America programs are supported by industry partners such as Tim Hortons, International Coffee Partners (participants Tchibo, Lavazza, Paulig, Löfbers, Franck, Joh. Johannson, Delta, Neumann Gruppe), the supporters of Coffee Kids, the members of the initiative for coffee&climate, the consortium of USAID’s Feed the Future Alliance for Resilient Coffee, Euroclima, the Swedish Development Cooperation (SIDA), the Interamerican Development Bank, The Safe Platform, UNEX, the Trifinio Commission, the regional coffee rountables of Trifinio and Huista (Guatemala) and the coffee institutes IHCAFE in Honduras and ANACAFE in Guatemala.