The ongoing COVID-19 crisis poses long-term risks on the livelihood situation of smallholder coffee farmer families around the globe. When the Coronavirus pandemic started, International Coffee Partners (ICP) remained committed to its support for these families from the first moment. We informed farmer communities how to protect themselves from the Coronavirus and adapted our approaches to the circumstances. Reaching farmers despite lockdown measures was more than crucial to secure crop-cycles, food security and cashflow.
But we feel that we need to do more. Farmer Families in our project regions Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Indonesia, Brazil and Honduras fear long-term effects because of the COVID-19 crisis.
To find out, what is needed most and how to react best, ICP conducted a survey in our projects about the impact of COVID-19. The results show that the Coronavirus pandemic contributes to existing problems, smallholder coffee farmer families are already facing. A summary of the results can be downloaded.
We also analyze an existing serious threat to household development plans, food security, business and income. Especially economic and climate related problems are aggravated by COVID-19. Prices of coffee remain the biggest challenge for smallholder families and COVID-19 is coming on top of challenges like living costs and weather patterns.
Farmer families are not very concerned about the coming harvest with 74% expecting regular activities. But every other family fears disruption in marketing the coffee. With highest impact on reduced prices (77%) und postponed selling of coffee (33%). If this disruption happens it will add on the fact that already now, 71% of the interviewed families indicate that they already see a negative impact on household income.
Looking at farm management the survey shows that 47% of farmer families already had to change plans because of COVID-19. Biggest impact in management activities is reported on access to farm workers (64%), access to inputs (62%) and access to savings (46%). On the side of agricultural activities, impact is biggest on fertilization (51%), pruning of trees (37%), use of agrochemicals (33%) and planting or rejuvenation (26%).
This means that families mainly reduce agricultural activities that work to stabilize and increase productivity in the medium and long term. These activities also strengthen plants to withstand pests and diseases. If plants are less productive because of that revenue will further decrease and risks in an already difficult market environment are going to increase.
Many ICP-activities switched to digital solutions when the pandemic hit. The overall response from farmer communities to this was very good. With the survey it became clear that farmer families are ready for digital trainings and want them. Access to hardware is also good and growing. (SMS-)Apps are used for economical processes. More than half of the farmers in Brazil, Central America and Indonesia own a smartphone. In Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia around 10% do so. Concerns like network quality and internet bundle prices remain but it is not only about internet access.
Extensionists equipped with smart devices can utilize digital training methods like videos detailing promoted practices. With farmers participating in such activities, digital infrastructure also becomes an asset for farmer organizations.
ICP is committed to continue with the ongoing investments into the livelihood situation of smallholder farmer families and believes that more partners should join in.
Methodology: 380 interviews in six countries via phone from June 2 to June 12, 2020
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