COVID-19: Supporting farmers and communities in India

Multiple initiatives in India subsidize hospital transport, share information or help deliver essential items to farmers. 

We have seen considerable changes in India with the spread of the coronavirus across the country. Since the national lockdown entered into force on 24 March, access to essential goods and transportation has become a challenge. Some of our partners have stepped in to provide financial support for the dissemination of reliable information and to farmers in need.

Subsizing transport

In Golaghat, tea agri-enterprenuers (AEs) are subsidizing transport for people with suspected cases of COVID-19 so that testing recommended by a registered medical practitioner or local healthcare/ASA worker can be provided. Small Tea Grower (STG) families can avail of transportation support up to Rs1500 for carrying patients to the nearest healthcare facility in case government support is not accessible. In addition, the tea AEs are supplying poor STG families with free supplies of fresh vegetables.

Credible information

During a crisis, the dissemination of information is particularly crucial. People seek answers to their concerns and are vulnerable to misinformation. Lack of accurate information can lead to risky or unsafe behaviour. At these times, reliable sources of information are essential for an efficient and effective response.

To ensure that farmers have access to credible information, our partners in the cotton sector are keeping farmers updated with government messaging on COVID-19. They share announcements with the farmers related to COVID-19 in their area. They are also speaking to the farmers to keep them updated on the situation and reiterate advice and recommendations.

One reliable source of relevant information has been UNICEF’S WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene).

WhatsApp groups

Farmers Field Schools have created a WhatsApp group for the farmers in their project. They use the platform to send WASH related information, ‘do’s and ‘don’ts’ related to the COVID-19 situation as stated by World Health Organization (WHO) and other credible sources. In the cotton industry, Deshpande Foundation, likewise, uses an app to share voice messages in local languages with the lead farmers in the project, who, in turn, spread the information further.

Awareness calls

The Indian tea sector is also concerned with sharing information. The agri-entrepreneurs are holding awareness calls with their network of Small Tea Grower (STG) farmers. The calls will address topics such as maintaining personal hygiene and enforcing social distancing as advised by local and national health authorities. These AEs have been trained as a part of our ongoing STG program and will receive a Rs10 incentive from our implementation partner for each call. The calls will reach a total of approximately 4000 farmers.

During this call, the AEs have a conversation with the STG household around the following:

    • Number of people in their household or vicinity who came from cities in last 2 weeks
    • Age of the person who came from city
    • Total family members above 60+ age
    • No. of family members with dry cough, fever and breathlessness among others
    • Number of farmers requested to reach out to Association for Social and Health Advancement (ASHA) workers/medical authorities
    • Number of cases recommended for COVID-19 test by ASHA/medical authorities
    • Follow-up with suspected case (Y/N)
    • Confirmed cases
    • Whether willing to donate blood (Y/N) and blood group

Farmer helpline

In the shrimp farming sector, our implementing partner Aquaconnect, has started a COVID-19 helpline for farmers. The aquatech company provides farmers support by clarifying the regulations on the lockdown as well as remote support on farm management: where to get inputs such as feed and seed; where to sell your shrimp and what to do when (shrimp)diseases occurs?

Meanwhile, further initiatives are underway. In the Indian cotton sector, Deshpande Foundation has been working on a rural e-commerce company – Boonbox – to deliver essential items to the farmers. Farmers and their communities will need support during this critical period, and working together is more important than ever.

Find out more about our work in India

Keep in the know on critical COVID-19 impacts upon supply chains