Farmers’ Covid-19 challenges

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Photo; David Luganda /NECJOGHA
By Michael J. Ssali — ssalimichaelj@gmail.com

Hardly any farmer in Uganda imagined that Covid-19 would affect our activities so much when we first heard about its presence in Asia and Europe only a few months ago.

But here we are now, in a nationwide lockdown, where everyone is required to stay at home, with nearly all shops and public offices are closed, and where motorised transport is limited to only commercial vehicles and ‘cargo’ boda boda motorcycles.

Urban centres now under lockdown were big consumers of our farm products but now we hear that since town dwellers are out of work their capacity to buy food has reduced.

The situation is not helped by the closure of some open food markets in large towns due to failure by stall holders to observe ‘social distancing’ regulations.

For most farmers in rural areas the mobile phone seems the only means of communication with urban food buyers and inputs suppliers where before buses and other public means would be used to go to purchases the inputs they needed, such as quality seeds.

Orders and deliveries now mainly depend on ‘cargo’ boda boda motorcycles. With the closure of public transport, farmers’ shops in urban centres are suffering reduction of customers and opting to close shop till the disease disappears after some unknown period.

It is difficult for farmers in such uncertain circumstances to make strong decisions and to make effective plans.

Farmers’ meetings are suspended and extension services must be courteously made to avoid the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Farmers’ meetings are suspended and extension services must be courteously made to avoid the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Yet extension workers would teach farmers how to fight the disease. When farmers’ cooperative societies cannot meet due to Covid-19 the purpose of their formation gets defeated.

Prices of major export crops such as coffee are falling due to declining demand in industrialised countries where the disease has caused massive closures of coffee bars and restaurants.

According to a recent UNDP report, income losses linked to Covid-19 are expected to exceed $220b in developing countries.

Yet some farming communities live in crowded conditions where social distancing and curfew regulations are difficult to implement, which means the disease may take longer to go.

 

 

 

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