June 15th

BURKINA FASO: Entrepreneurs getting Burkina Faso back on its feet

Until now, Burkina Faso has recorded 892 official coronavirus cases: 323 women and 569 men. In total, 53 people have died from Covid-19, and 778 patients have been declared as recovered. The number of cases has already been falling for a month, varying between one and five cases per day. With our support, farmers and entrepreneurs are ready to get the local economy going again. 
 
To continue the declining number of cases, the authorities have decided to keep air and land borders closed. Other measures include limiting the number of people that can take part in workshops, making the wearing of face masks compulsory, and compliance with social distancing. Nevertheless, some things have been relaxed. Bars, restaurants and places of worship have opened their doors again, and schools have reopened so that pupils can sit exams. 
 
Where necessary, family farmers in Burkina Faso have made changes. The rice growers that Trias supports in the centre and east of the country have discussed credit measures with processers and traders. That has happened in full compliance with the Covid-19 regulations, as you can from the photo above.
 
The good news is that more and more Trias partners are gradually restarting their activities. Furthermore, the Trias office in Burkina's capital Ouagadougou has reopened and our advisers are doing field visits again. 
 
In the photo you can see a Trias employee distributing certified rice seeds for the winter campaign. On the edge of the Sahara, it only rains for three months a year. Family farmers use water from small artificial dams to grow rice.
 
The farmer families have no lack of perseverance, resilience or technical knowledge. Leveraging our background in Flemish civil society we offer them advice about how to work in effective cooperatives. This extra encouragement makes all the difference for the people in Burkina Faso who are keen to stand on their own feet.
 
June 10th
 

ECUADOR: Large online consultation of partners

With 44,000 official cases and 3,690 deaths, Ecuador has been hard hit by coronavirus. The country's national bank expects the GDP to shrink between 7.3 and 9.6 per cent. Since the beginning of the corona crisis, almost 150,000 Ecuadorans have lost their job.  
 
The government has decided to deal with its reduced tax revenues through budget cuts. While everywhere in Europe the governments have gone into the red in order to absorb the economic shock of the corona crisis, the Ecuadorian government will spend 5.6 per cent less this year than it did in 2019. These government measures have caused large disquiet in wide sections of the population. 
 
In the meantime, the Trias office in Riobamba has brought 56 members of local partners from Ecuador and Peru together for an online conference (see photo). We analysed the current crisis and discussed the challenges that farmers' and entrepreneurs' associations will face in the coming months. Everyone agreed that the cooperatives and their friends must adjust to the 'new reality'.
 
Some conclusions from the conference:
  • by taking the right safety measures in all links of the supply chain, Ecuador's food sector has not stopped at any moment during the lockdown 
  • the crisis has forced cooperatives to develop innovative concepts for selling food products, such as food baskets filled with produce from partnerships between potato farmers, quinoa producers and vegetable farmers
  • through the increase in direct sales to consumers, the population has realised the importance of high-performing agricultural production, in which the primary focus is family farmers in your own region
  • during the crisis, technology has proven to be an important tool to organise training and to ensure continued sales of agricultural products, but technology is not available in all rural areas
  • to fight a crisis, agricultural cooperatives need to count on the support of not only public institutions but also private partners, and so it is important to always maintain these relationships
 
June 9th
 

PERU: Low-interest loans for 25,000 farmers' families 

In mid-March, one of the strictest lockdowns in the world was installed in Peru. Since then, the army has been patrolling the streets, domestic traffic has been halted and there is a curfew after 8pm.
 
Despite all of this, the country has been hit badly by coronavirus, with the death toll now standing at 5,570 people. And, at the end of May, President Martín Vizcarra cautioned that Peru is only halfway through the pandemic.
 
Why has Peru been hit so hard? According to official statistics, 11 per cent of Peruvians have no running water to wash their hands. Only one in five households has a fridge, which makes it difficult to do the shopping for more than one day in advance. In fact, markets have become sources of infection. Furthermore, seven out of ten Peruvians earn their income in the informal economy. Many people need to go out to work in order to survive. 
 
Meanwhile the government has approved an economic rescue plan. One of the civil society organisations involved in negotiations for this plan was the agricultural federation Conveagro, a Trias partner (see photo). The intention is that an agricultural crisis unit will devise a relaunch strategy.
 
There will be an emergency fund to help 25,000 farming families pay for the growing season this coming autumn. The families can apply for low-interest (3.5%) loans. Furthermore, the government is financing reforestation, food packages and training for small farmers, with a particular focus on women. 
 
A light point in the corona crisis is that, until now, the virus has not affected the Peruvian highlands so badly. Scientists are researching possible reasons for this. One hypothesis is that the UV radiation from sunlight is stronger at altitude and more parts of the virus are eliminated. Another possible explanation is that because highlanders have more red blood cells they have greater resistance against lung infections such as Covid-19.
 
 
June 5th
 

TANZANIA: Trias office reopens its doors

In Arusha, the Trias office is open again. That sounds like good news, but in fact no one in Tanzania knows how hard the coronavirus has hit them. On 29 April, the number of official cases was 509. Since then, the government has not published any updates.
 
A number of measures are still in place such as the closure of primary and secondary schools. If you enter the country, you are subjected to a temperature check and need to fill in a questionnaire. The guidelines stipulate washing hands and maintaining social distancing, but no checks are being made on this.
 
Three weeks ago, the universities and technical and university colleges reopened their doors, and a number of airlines have started flying to Tanzania. So it seems that life in the country is getting back to normal, but appearances can be deceiving.
 
The Arusha region is highly dependent on tourism, and since the start of the corona crisis the sector has been hard hit. Also in the trade of goods - such as garden products - there have been problems. It is difficult to assess how big the damage is. And Kenya has banned the import of livestock, which has led to a loss of income for the Masai in northern Tanzania. 
 
Our colleagues have consulted with local partners about how can we restart part of our work in the field. In recent weeks, Trias has helped these partners with raising awareness of family farmers and small entrepreneurs. Face masks and hand gels are being distributed at large retail markets.
 
 
June 3rd
 

CONGO: Higher costs and lower income for farmers 

Until now, 3,325 official coronavirus cases have been recorded in Congo. 72 Congolese people have died from the virus. Since the emergency situation was declared on 24 March, the capital Kinshasa has been the epicentre of the epidemic, particularly in the Gombe district, which is Kinshasa's business centre. During the lockdown, which was in place until 20 April, there was a mass operation to disinfect offices and buildings.
 
Although the number of cases remains limited in the rest of the country, there are still strong containment measures in place. There are no flights allowed from abroad and meetings of more than 20 people are prohibited. Nightclubs, restaurants, cafés, schools and universities are closed, and religious celebrations and sports events in stadiums have been cancelled. Measures have also been taken to limit the number of people on public transport.
 
These measures have disrupted the operations of farmers' organisations that are supported by Trias. For example, the cocoa cooperatives in Mai Ndombe have experienced delays with the export of their beans. In the port of Matadi, extra costs have been incurred because the beans have had to stay on the boat for longer than expected.
 
Bell pepper producers have also suffered: they could not sell 1.2 tonnes of produce in Kinshasa after the city was closed to the outside world. Some of this produce had to be thrown away as there is a lack of infrastructure for storing fresh vegetables.
 
'There is a great deal of uncertainty in the agricultural markets and this has caused a drop in the prices paid to the farmers', says Trias employee Lavilé Zoumanigui. That is for example the case for cocoa. Another problem is that the faltering markets cause extra storage costs. The drop in income from most agricultural products is detrimental to the quality of life of the Congolese, because 7 out of 10 live from the agricultural sector.
 
Our colleagues in Congo have set up a crisis committee. Everyone has hand gels, face masks and the necessary infrastructure to work at home. For the isolated region of Mai Ndombe, a fund of 1000 dollars and 400 litres of petrol have been provided to be ready for a potential evacuation. 
 
Since the start of the crisis, the Trias team has raised awareness about the coronavirus among local partners, for example with posters that have also been printed in Lingala, one of the local languages in Congo. Social distancing has become as much of a habit there as it is in Belgium (see photo).
 
 
June 2nd
 

UGANDA: Four million more Ugandans in poverty

In recent days, the number of official coronavirus infections has increased to 417 after the numbers had stayed stable for a while. Most cases were detected among healthcare workers and lorry drivers who came into the country from abroad. The good news is that, until now, no Covid-19 related deaths have been recorded.
 
Corona measures 
 
The curfew is still in place, but other quarantine measures have been partly relaxed. Shops selling food or building materials are open again, though large shopping centres and markets are largely closed. Public transport is operating again – as long as passengers wear a mask – except in major border districts such as Arua, Zombo, Nebbi and Hoima. This means that a lot of activities from Trias partners have not yet been able to resume.
 
Happily the coaches from the agricultural organisation can still visit the family farmers, as long as there are no more than five people in the meetings. They guide the crop rotation during the growing season and ensure that access to micro credits is restricted to farmers. The good news is that credit institutions have allowed farmers and small entrepreneurs to suspend payments.
 
However, most Trias employees continue to work from home. For this, they have received the necessary technical support. Since public transport has slowly resumed operations, our colleagues in Uganda have been given three face masks if they want to work in the office. Measures have been taken to ensure the office can be worked in safely, such as a rota system so that social distancing can be guaranteed. Everything has been done to provide intensive support to our partners in their innovative search for ways to cope with this crisis. 
 
Learning to work with corona
 
Also with the honey producers of Tunado – one of our Ugandan partners – things are not standing still. In the warehouses where the honey is stored, hygiene measures have been tightened. Furthermore, radio and text messages have been sent out to help guide the beekeepers through the corona crisis. Also, with the support of Trias, flyers in four local languages have been distributed, so that everyone is kept updated.
 
Several weeks ago, the World of Bees, one of Tunado's commercial partners, bought three tons of honey so it could deliver it directly to people's homes, on the basis of telephone orders. This sale has ensured that the honey producers have had cash in the pockets during this crisis, so they have been able to buy vital basis goods such as food and soap.
 
Growing poverty 
 
For many other small entrepreneurs, times are bleak, says our regional coordinator Januario Ntungwa. Business owners who have had to close their businesses no longer have any income. For medium-sized and large businesses, there has been a noticeable decline in jobs. The prices for agricultural products have gone through the floor as many urban markets have had to close because of the quarantine measures. This is good news for consumers, but a bitter pill for the farmers to swallow.
 
Because of the corona crisis, many Ugandans have been constrained to only one meal per day, and some must go whole days without eating. The expectation is that, because of Covid-19, four million Ugandans will end up below the poverty line. Consequently the proportion of the country's population living in poverty will climb from 21 to more than 30 per cent. 
 
 
May 29th
 

EL SALVADOR: Making a virtue of the emergency help

Strict measures have helped to ensure that El Salvador has, until now, not witnessed a serious outbreak, but coronavirus remains a threat. As it stands, the official number of cases is 2278, and 42 people have died of the disease.
 
In this period, the farmers' families could do with a bit of extra support. They have understood this well at Confras, an agricultural federation with 6800 members who are committed to cooperative ideals, sustainable agricultural practices and equal opportunities. The federation has been receiving support from Trias for a number of years. 
 
In the coming weeks, Confras will distribute 493 agro-ecological packets to cooperatives, women's committees and youth wings across the whole of El Salvador. The packets contain farmers' seeds and organic fertiliser. According to Confras, 'We must not only think about the current crisis, but also about our food sovereignty, soil fertility, water management and carbon dioxide storage.' 
 
Confras would like to thank Trias and our Swedish colleagues from We Effect. We would like to congratulate Confras for their tenacity in promoting sustainable family farming.
 
 
April 30th
 

ECUADOR: Enormous difference between urban and rural areas

Although the official number of corona infections and deaths in Ecuador is lower than in neighbouring countries such as Peru and Brazil, the situation remains very serious. The world's press have reported on the large port of Guayaquil as one of the hardest-hit cities in Latin America. Healthcare services and funeral companies have been overwhelmed by the virus outbreak. While the rich elite have access to top hospitals, the public healthcare system has completely collapsed.
 
The contrast between the anonymous city and the cooperative dynamic in rural areas could not be bigger: in the Andes region, Trias-supported farmers' cooperatives are working hard to adjust to the crisis. The vegetable farmers from Pacat were the first in the Ambato region to offer their customers varied food packages. Now, Agropapa's potato farmers, Unocace's cocoa farmers and Tejemujeres's handicraft textile producers are also part of this initiative in the towns of Milagro and Gualaceo. 
 
'It's all about solidarity and trust', says Trias employee Maritza Lara, who emphasizes that Trias Andes continues to work hard to help farming cooperatives collaborate on innovative marketing strategies.
 
 
April 29th
 

CENTRAL AMERICA: Trias celebrates farmers

While the rest of the world stands still, farmers keep ploughing on. That is the core message in a video from our colleagues in El Salvador that praises farmers' passion and dedication – similar to the #Boerentrots (#ProudFarmers) campaign in Flanders. At the start of the film, the narrator says that it looked like the end of days when the lockdown was declared. People hurried to the supermarket, where they saw that luckily there are still people ensuring they get food while they stay safe in their homes...

According to official figures, El Salvador has so far been quite successful in containing the virus. 345 cases of the virus have been detected, and 8 people have died. In recent days, the country hit the headlines worldwide with news that gang members are packed in like sardines in overfull prisons. The footage that accompanied this news provided images that, since the start of the corona crisis, we are no longer used to seeing. In El Salvador, there are estimated to be 70,000 active gang members. They keep the country in a stranglehold powered by violence and blackmail. 
 
 
April 28th
 

PHIILIPINES: Hard-hit farmers distributing free milk

Until now, the official level of coronavirus infections in the Philippines is 8,000, and the disease has claimed the lives of 530 people. The majority of cases have been in Luzon, the biggest island in the Philippines where the capital Manila – and Trias' Southeast Asia office – is located.  

Until the end of this month, a strict lockdown is in force in Luzon, and for Manila this has been extended until mid-May. 'People are arrested if they do not follow the rules. This happens on a random basis, without an arrest warrant,' explains regional director Gudrun Cartuyvels. She adds that the police have also shot a man dead in the street, without giving him prior warning.

The government has announced an emergency package giving approximately 100 dollars to those who are in the direst need. Yet, says Gudrun, 'bureaucracy and political games mean that this support is being rolled out very slowly. As a result, millions of families do not have enough to eat. So, where possible, it's better if people can organise things for themselves. It's nice to see that cooperatives are taking responsibility.' 

A good example is the milk distribution run by ACT, the farmers' cooperative in Tigaon, which is a municipality with approximately 55,000 inhabitants in the province of Camarines Sur. The farmers of the cooperative set up a system themselves to deliver free milk to at least 250 healthcare workers and 150 vulnerable families every day. 
 
Some farmer families deliver milk, while others make a financial contribution to fund the logistics and so forth. ACT's dairy farmers plan to keep this scheme in place until the quarantine on Luzon is lifted. 
 
'This is an enormous effort', underlines Gudrun, 'because these farmers have also been badly hit by the corona crisis'. Currently, many arable farmers are unable to find buyers for their produce. Therefore they cannot earn back their investments, and so cannot buy seed to plant for the next harvest. No emergency support package for farmers is in place.
 
The ACT cooperative is part of BFDC, an umbrella organisation that has been supported by Trias for many years. BFDC aims to heighten standards in dairy production and to raise awareness of the sector among local policymakers.
 
 
April 20th
 

TANZANIA: Trias partners take matters into their own hands

In the East African country of Tanzania, there have so far been 170 cases of Covid-19, and seven people have died from the virus. Tanzania is one of the few countries in Africa where no quarantine measures have been put in place. Last week, President John Magufuli called on his compatriots to pray for the whole weekend.
 
However, Trias' partners are not sitting on their hands. The farmers' organisation Mviwata is touring round the most far-flung places to provide members with information about the coronavirus. A 4x4 with a loudspeaker is broadcasting messages via a loudspeaker, posters are being hung everywhere, and flyers are being distributed. 
 
For the market gardeners, Taha, another Trias partner, has developed a separate solution. As the number of freight flights has been limited, the export of fresh vegetables and fruit from Tanzania has threatened to grind to a halt. But now an agreement has been made with a number of airlines and logistic companies to restart activities so that the market demand can be met.
 
 
April 14th
 

BURKINA FASO: yet another bitter pill to swallow

Burkina Faso is one of the 25 highly vulnerable countries that do not need to pay debts back to the IMF for the next six months, during the corona crisis. Instead, it can spend this money on healthcare, says IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. As it stands, there are 515 confirmed coronavirus cases in Burkina Faso – including 6 members of the government – and it has claimed the lives of 28 people. 
 
Just like elsewhere in the world, Trias employees in Burkina Faso have been trying to work from home. They are continuing to advise farmers' and entrepreneurs' associations. For example, a mechanism has been developed to keep providing onion and rice growers with seeds and fertilisers. The corona crisis has forced our colleagues to look forwards and backwards at the same time. They are already thinking about plans to relaunch the local economy as soon as possible, but are also trying to develop emergency programmes to provide humanitarian support in the hardest-hit communities.
 
Coronavirus is yet another bitter pill for Burkina Faso to swallow: the country has to cope with poverty, drought, hunger and political violence. In the past year, 700,000 inhabitants have had to flee attacks from armed jihadists.
 
Nevertheless, the country is doing all it can to tackle the coronavirus: in the worst-hit urban areas, including the capital Ouagadougou, quarantine measures and a curfew are in place. Schools, shops, airports and land borders have been closed. If this situation continues, there threatens to be food shortages and social unrest. 
 
Furthermore, if the coronavirus really strikes Burkina Faso, there could be a medical disaster. The country has just one hospital that is able to admit patients, and the single lab that can analyse tests is four hours' drive from the capital.
 
 
April 9th
 

EL SALVADOR: Corona widens gender gap

Infections in El Salvador have now risen above one hundred, and five corona patients have died. The country is doing all it can to keep the virus under control. The classic measures apply: people have been asked to stay at home, businesses are closed, transport is strictly limited, events have been cancelled, and so on.
 
At the end of March, Nayib Bukele, President of El Salvador, held a powerful speech in which he announced a series of support measures. Payment for basic services such as water, electricity and the internet have been suspended for a three-month period, as well as rental payments for small shop owners. Hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans who work in the informal sector will get a bonus of 300 dollars to replace lost income. It remains to be seen if the government will come good on these promises, however. The neglect of public services in recent years has made people doubtful.
 
'In a country such as El Salvador it is not an obvious thing to ask people to stay at home', says Trias employee Flor Flores (see photo). 'Many must leave their house every day to pick up a small income from the informal sector so they can support their family that day. For these people, the current measures are a disaster.'
 
The Trias employees in Central America - who are currently all working from home - are especially worried about the position of women. 'We are struggling with large gender inequality and the corona crisis is making the gap even bigger', warns Flor Flores. Women are expected to run the household, look after old people and also try and pick up an extra income. 'As the schools are now shut, women must spend the whole day looking after their children. Therefore they are more at risk of getting infected and their household incomes are under a lot of pressure.' 
 
Given that people in Flanders are worried about increasing domestic violence, it is clear that in countries with very macho cultures, the alarm bells are ringing. Immediately after the announcement of the lockdown in El Salvador, Trias started a campaign for women to signpost them to support services should they become victims of domestic or sexual violence.
 
And other cases of inequality have been noticeable in recent days. Across the country, El Salvador is keeping thousands of people in quarantine, but at the same time the US and Mexico is continuing with the repatriation of Salvadorans, who are potentially carrying coronavirus. Nevertheless, Flor Flores wants to end on a positive note: 'We have a young population which is perhaps more resistant to the virus than populations with an inverted age pyramid, such as in Europe and the US. That is where we need to pin our hope, because otherwise I fear that our care institutions will not be able to cope with the epidemic.'
 
 
April 8th
 

UGANDA: Junior employee Hanne Vandersteegen is back home

Over a month ago, 23-year-old Hanne Vandersteegen from Bree got off to a flying start with the Trias team in Uganda. In her first interview Hanne had nothing but praise for her new colleagues and she was looking forward to making the difference in charge of communication and digitalisation. However, Hanne is already back home – which was definitely not part of the plan.

When was the corona crisis first noticeable in Uganda?
Hanne: 'The first infection was detected on 21 March. Since there a few dozen cases have been officially recorded, but there have been no deaths. So from a medical standpoint, the situation seems to be under control, but Uganda is still paying a high price for the crisis.'
 
What do you mean?
'Weeks before the first confirmed corona case, the government took strict lockdown measures. At this moment, neither public nor private transport is operating. Only food stores are open and all gatherings of over five people are prohibited.'
 
Are Ugandans concerned about the coronavirus?
'Definitely. The government is distributing basic foodstuffs in vulnerable regions. And yesterday, the king of the semi-autonomous kingdom of Buganda made a large donation. Because of the crisis, prices of basic goods have already doubled or tripled. People are worried.'
 
What impact has the corona pandemic and the corresponding measures had on the Trias team in Uganda?
'As a preventive measure I have come back to Belgium. There were also not many options, as our office in Kampala is temporarily closed. My colleagues are working from home, although they frequently have to deal with bad internet connections. Furthermore, we have a lot of young female employees who need to look after their children at home since the schools are also shut.'
 
Making it difficult to support farmers' and entrepreneurs' associations?
'Staff have been asked to invest extra energy in making reports and adjusting plans. We are advising the organisations to deploy their financial reserves smartly: as many members as possible need to survive the crisis, and the production chains must be able to restart smoothly, so the essential links in the chains need to be given enough oxygen.' 
 
In Uganda, the sowing season is now beginning. So it is frustrating that the farmers' organisations cannot give advice and practical support to their members? 
'The farmers' organisations have been forced to put most activities on hold. Happily, the coaches who work in the field are still active. However, it is now more difficult for farmers to get credit. The positive thing is that internet banking via smartphones is now increasing. Another piece of good news is that Tunado's honey producers have been able to continue supplying their customers.'
 
But undoubtedly you hope that this nightmare will be over soon?
'Of course, because I really want to return to Uganda as soon as I can. My team is facing an even bigger challenge in the coming months: we are trying to prepare the farmers for the locust plague that has hit eastern Africa. Sadly this will have a big effect on the new season.'

 

April 7th

 

GUINEA: Youca delegation in quarantine

After their recent visit to Belgium, six young people from our Guinean partner Jeunes Solidaires and our colleague Mamadou Barry were placed in quarantine. The coronavirus has Guinea in a stranglehold. The West African nation has only just recovered from an Ebola outbreak in 2014.
 
The country's first case was recorded on 13 March - a Belgian tourist. Officially, there have now been 121 coronavirus cases, one of which is Finance Minister, who was infected on a trip to Europe.
 
The government in the capital Conakry has never introduced such measures before. The borders and the air space are closed. Bars, restaurants, cinemas, churches and mosques: all shut. The different types of taxis can only take a maximum of three people, while normally they transport many more. Meetings can go ahead, but only with twenty people or less.
 
Our regional director René Fara Millimouno is worried about what will happen in the coming weeks. 'The fact that the schools are shut has an enormous impact by itself. The teachers get no salary and the children do not receive any form of education', he says. Now Conakry in is lockdown, all commuters to the capital are without work and so have no income. 
 
As a Trias partner, the youth organisation Jeunes Solidaires has started a campaign to raise awareness of the coronavirus among young people in Guinea. Trias staff, working from home, are forming a detailed picture of the impact of the crisis. They have also devised an extensive plan for family farmers, entrepreneurs and their associations. The plan contains both preventive measures to counter the spread of the virus and other measures to soften the crisis' impact in the coming weeks and months. 
 
'Many self-employed people have seen their income go up in smoke, while the impact on farmers has been limited thus far', says Millimouno. However, he cautions that 'if the crisis lasts a long time, there could be food shortages that affect a large part of the population.'
 
 
April 6th
 

ECUADOR: vegetable growers ensure supplies with family baskets

As of today, Ecuador has more than 3000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and almost 200 deaths. 70% of the infections have so far been detected in the coastal city of Guayaquil. The health system in Guayaquil is no longer able to cope with the situation and funeral homes are unable to handle the great number of victims.
 
'A state of emergency has been declared and draconian measures are in place across the country,' said Trias employee Maritza Lara, who, like all other colleagues at Trias South America, works from home. In Ecuador, a curfew is in effect from two o'clock in the afternoon until five o'clock in the morning. Violators will be fined $100. Third offences will result in prison sentences.
 
Only one person per family is allowed to leave the house to buy the essentials. This person must follow strict regulations regarding face masks and gloves. Passenger cars may of course only be used for essential trips, up to twice a week. Except for urgent freight transport, provincial borders remain closed. The repatriation of Ecuadorians abroad by air has been stopped because previous flights have shown that travellers do not comply with the quarantine rules upon arrival at the airport.
 
The vegetable growers of Pacat, one of Trias’ partners, try to keep a cool head amid the chaos. Their weekly market in Ambato, a town in the Andes Mountains at 2,600 meters above sea level, has been suspended for the time being. They have however started an alternative sales channel. The growers drive around with so-called 'family baskets' that customers order online. They can choose among three types, ranging in price from 15 euros for 12 basic products to 32 euros for 26 products. 
 
This initiative was launched after consultation with the provincial government and the Ministry of Agriculture. Trias provides logistical support. The family baskets ensure that vegetable growers maintain their income and local consumers do not have to leave their homes to buy basic food. 
 
Trias has also involved Agropapa's potato growers in the sale of family baskets. These potato farmers supply native potatoes and crisps that are produced from those native varieties. 'We encourage Agropapa growers to process their potatoes into crisps, since this is a way for them to create added value. Family baskets are a great channel to promote those crisps. “This is how we make a virtue of necessity”, explains Lara. Furthermore, Trias ensures that the local potato seed production receives a quality injection and that the farmers of Agropapa can purchase enough potato seeds to keep their production going during the corona crisis.
 
The Covid-19 crisis does not only bring doom and gloom. The quinoa growers of our partner Coprobich received an unexpectedly large order from a supermarket chain as part of the sanitary measures. Six workers ensure that the requested quantities are delivered on time. In order to ensure that the members of the cooperative, often senior farmers, have enough cash in their house to make the necessary purchases during the crisis, employees will make outstanding payments for the harvest delivered door to door.
 

 

 

 

 

April 1st

BRAZIL: food programmes stall

Brazil has 5717 COVID-19 cases and 201 deaths. The far-right president Jair Bolsonaro (see picture) first labelled COVID-19 as a “small flu”, but has now made a 180-degree turn. He called it the greatest challenge for his generation. 
 
'We live in quarantine,' says Gisele Obara, who is responsible for managing Trias' projects in Brazil. All team members are currently working from home. Meetings and events are suspended until the end of April. An adjustment of the annual planning will be discussed with the partners in the coming days.
 
In Brazil, Trias supports farmers' cooperatives, who also groan under the COVID-19 crisis. Because schools and public institutions are closed, the supplies of family farmers were also suspended. The food programs supporting these producers have come to a complete standstill. “Unemployment is also threatening in rural areas,” says Obara. More and more people are short of basic resources such as rice, beans and flour. 
 
Trias Brazil is working with local partners on support measures that local authorities can take to protect farmers' cooperatives. Together with farmers' groups, alternative sources of income are being considered in these uncertain times. 
 
For the poorest families, the government has promised a corona-voucher of 600 reais (€108). According to preliminary forecasts, the Brazilian economy will shrink by three percent and 20 million Brazilians are likely to lose their jobs in the coming months. 
 
27 March
 

CENTRAL AMERICA: educational instruction video from our colleagues

In Central America, our colleagues have made an instructional video for family farmers and entrepreneurs who come home after they have finished their work for the day. The proposed measures go much further than carefully washing your hands. In El Salvador, the first coronavirus infection was not officially confirmed until 18 March.
 
President Bukele is making preparations to treat 12,800 patients. Hotels are being converted into hospitals. In Guatemala, the virus was imported on 13 March by a man returning from the north of Italy. The borders are closed, and all businesses and public transport are on lockdown. In Honduras, they had 12 official cases by 18 March, and a state of emergency has been announced.