COVID-19: How HRNS informs coffee communities and remains committed during this crisis

Date:27 March 2020

At Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) we feel a strong responsibility in the current COVID-19 pandemic for both our beneficiaries and our staff.

Smallholder coffee farmer families are specifically vulnerable in this situation. They lack access to information, healthcare, reliable testing or sanitation materials like soap or disinfectants. Clean water is not always available and market disruption due to movement restrictions, suspending of rural markets and banning gatherings might well challenge families’ cash flows and supplies. Also, coffee operations might be affected with limited availability of services, difficulties in hiring labor during peak times such as harvest and processing, and disturbed product chains. At the same time agricultural production goes on, crop cycles continue, and families need access to food and cash.

HRNS continues to stand side-by-side with coffee farmers

Coffee regions, in which we are implementing projects, are also increasingly affected by the novel Coronavirus. As HRNS is deeply rooted in coffee farmer communities, we continue to stand side-by-side with the smallholder farmer families. They need our ongoing support even more right now. They are the weakest link in the entire coffee supply chain, as they do not possess financial reserves for contingencies. Their living conditions are most difficult already and they are further harmed through low coffee prices during the recent years. The Coronavirus will most likely result in severe additional risks for farmers and their families.

To ensure continued support during this crisis, our offices are already adapting their work based on local government regulations but at the same time are analyzing where farmers stand in the production and marketing cycle of their harvest, how farmers can secure their own food supply in times of the crisis, and how HRNS can help securing the incomes of farmer households.

While we suspended most of our travelling, HRNS remains close to the farmers as many of our extensionists live and work in rural areas. This allows them to stay in contact with farmer families by calling them or conducting imperative individual visits. Training activities might still take place in some regions under additional security measures depending on the regulations in place. They happen outside only, the number of participants is limited, personal distance is kept, and sanitizers are distributed. Wherever possible we switch to digital solutions for communication like SMS-Services, Social Media or cooperation with local radio stations.

It is our aim to raise awareness for the risks associated with the virus, support governments in spreading the news about regulations and recommended behavior, and to enable our beneficiaries and their families to best protect themselves. At the same time, we want to ensure that the most essential messages to continue farming operations are conveyed.

Dedication and flexibility are key in this crucial moment

We are 100% committed to inform and support our teams. HRNS started to implement remote working solutions wherever possible at an early stage, in some places even before local governments started to introduce such activities. Staff has also been informed about how to protect themselves, their families and communities.

All of this would not be possible without the continuous support of our partners. We at HRNS appreciate their ongoing commitment and support during this difficult time. Dedication and flexibility are key in this crucial moment. We are in constant and direct contact with donors, partners and friends and develop our assessments of and reaction to this situation further together with them.

The COVID-19 pandemic will influence rural areas and agriculture for months to come. We are confident that together we will navigate as efficient as possible through this crisis. At HRNS we are already now assessing what activities will be most urgent after the pandemic. We are committed to stay positive during this difficult time and focus on the opportunities we have.