Communities, connection, and COVID-19 in India
In India, Tanager partners with smallholder farmers, government entities, corporations, and foundations to help increase farmer income through robust training on Good Agricultural Practices, support for gender equality, strengthening of Farmer Producer Organizations, and streamlining access to markets. COVID-19 and the restrictions put in place by the government have brought new challenges to implementing this work. However, Tanager’s close connection to the communities where we work is helping us make progress on commitments without risking the safety of farmers or staff.
The Government of India has deemed agriculture an essential activity, but even with some permissible farming activities, most of the country is in lock down. As the restrictions came into effect, Tanager immediately created resources to educate farmers on social distancing and the importance of hand washing and face masks. These materials were distributed through WhatsApp along with information about new government programs that could help farmers weather the crisis.
With these resources in the hands of farmers, Tanager also wanted to better understand how they were dealing with the crisis financially. We conducted a rapid appraisal with farmers – using WhatsApp – to better understand their immediate needs. The appraisal yielded some actionable results: across the three project farmer groups that we spoke to, farmers were most concerned about their financial future and connecting to the markets they have come to rely on.
To help alleviate some of the financial pressure that the crisis has brought to farming communities, Tanager’s extension agents – those that live in the farming communities – are helping to connect farmers to buyers. For example, in the Araku Valley region of Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh, Tanager worked with farmers to educate them on proper social distancing, the importance of wearing masks, and proper precautions to be taken while farming. The team also encouraged the farmers to harvest their produce and arranged permission from the government to transport the vegetables to a group of buyers. The team helped these farmers sell 5388 kgs of worth of Red cabbage, Capsicum, Yellow Zucchini, Tomato, Cabbage and Green Chilies for a total of Rs. 26,834.
Another potential challenge to lockdown is the lack of labor at the farm level. To help mitigate the effects of the COVID labor shortage, Tanager created and disseminated resources to help farmers increase productivity without relying on increased labor inputs.
Finally, Tanager is committed to helping farmers access a diverse and nutritious diet. To that end, Tanager is working with Self-Help Groups as part of the Shubh Mint project to encourage households to adopt the use of kitchen gardens to improve household nutrition, including advice on starting and managing their gardens and providing on-going support as the gardens are developed. Currently, there are around 700 smallholder farmers who have raised kitchen gardens, growing 5 types of seasonal vegetables with the support of Tanager’s extension teams and Self-Help Group supervisors.
As the situation in India evolves Tanager will continue to evaluate our response. We know that in this time of pandemic, smallholder farmers will need open supply chains, agricultural inputs, training, and support more than ever. Our commitment to these farmers is unwavering and we applaud our partners at every level for their continued support of our work.