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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.'
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. Last weekend, the whole world saw on television that the health system in Guayaquil is no longer able to cope with the situation. Funeral directors dare not pick up bodies, so families have no choice but to dump the bodies of their deceased loved ones on the street, in the middle of the city.
'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.
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.
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.