In this series, WOCAT partners share insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting land use, agriculture, and small farmers in their region. The short reports reveal the distinct ways that authorities and people on the ground in different settings are responding to a common threat.
In northern Uganda, farmers lost key buyers – including schools, hotels, and restaurants – due to lockdowns, and had to sell goods at low prices to traders. However, smallholders’ rising awareness of their shared predicament spurred renewed interest in collective pooling of resources and bargaining with middlemen. The Government of Uganda has also voiced support for more sustainable production of high-value crops, for example by means of agroforestry. Farmers and extension officers started to use digital tools for agriculture advisory.
The pandemic arrived in South Africa just as the agricultural sector posted a significant decline in earnings for the previous year. Farmers must now contend with risks of shrinking demand for usually profitable goods, such as milk and meat, as cash-strapped consumers look for ways to save. Local extension services have also suffered. One area of hope is farmers increased use of mobile phone messaging and online platforms to exchange information.
In Bangladesh, restrictions on worker mobility and social-distancing rules posed an immediate challenge to the harvest of winter rice. Authorities responded by arranging special transport of labourers and subsidizing use of otherwise costly harvesting machines. Bangladesh’s pre-existing network of community radio stations has also proven highly useful in broadcasting key COVID-19-related information to farmers on the ground.
The pandemic served as a wakeup call regarding food security in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which meets 80–90% of its food needs with imports. The crisis hit when very little domestic produce was available, and initial disruptions to supply chains raised concerns. Government ministries have announced aid measures, including grants and low-interest loans to farmers, hoping to jumpstart domestic agriculture. Some local agriculturalists, such as beekeepers, have seen an uptick in business as people become interested in healthy local foods.
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