How the COVID-19 Pandemic is Impacting Farmers

During Global Goals Week, I attended “Live from Uganda: How COVID-19 is Impacting Smallholder Farmers”. This event included a brief conversation between Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO of Heifer International, and William Matovu, country director in Uganda. Heifer International is a nonprofit focused on eradicating poverty and hunger through sustainable, values-based community development. This topic directly relates to SDG 2: Zero Hunger because it centers around farmers and how the pandemic has impacted their production and livelihoods.

William Matovu described how at the start of the pandemic, public transportation and travel suspended from region to region, and farmers were not able to move their food to markets. Critical services closed and farmers were forced to rely on their savings which now changes how farmers run their businesses. The shutdown of these services has had a detrimental effect on farmers and now they must navigate how to move forward, support these businesses, and ensure they have the resources to make it through if there is another shutdown in response to the pandemic. Both panelists mentioned that a good place to start is investing in innovation and technology that works for farmers. It would be helpful to transition from cash to mobile money and smartphones, and more cooling plants should also be available to farmers because businesses that didn’t have them had to shut down. They also suggested implementing a curriculum for teaching networking, dealing with suppliers through co-op leadership, and more training for post COVID-19. Matovu touched on the importance of eventually being able to support farmers by getting them access to affordable capital so they can revive their businesses. The system is vulnerable and we must continue to support farmers, heal the fractures caused by COVID-19, and develop response plans in the event of another shutdown.

I have seen how food waste has been exacerbated in the U.S. because of the pandemic and how it has affected farmers globally. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is urging countries to “support smallholder farmers’ ability to increase food production”, meet the needs of the vulnerable population and more. Across the world, those in power must support the people who grow food, so they can thrive, and we can find ways to ensure everyone has access to that food.

Diana Daniels serves as a 2020-2021 UNA-USA Global Goals Ambassador for SDG 2: Zero Hunger.