- The social distance at the farms implies that farmers must limit the number of labour force-carrying an activity at a time. That means activity turnaround time is prolonged, increasing production costs putting pressure on cash flows.
- Farmers are also expected to strengthen their worker hygiene and welfare procedures which can come at a cost.
- Some planned activities like field days were cancelled in compliance with national regulation
Zimbabwean Farmers’ Health
Farmers are playing a role in raising awareness on COVID-19 and its management recommendations to stop the spread of the virus at the farms.
They are encouraged to strengthen hygiene procedures (maintaining social distance, frequent washing of hands, wearing of masks and gloves and reporting suspected cases).
Exporting farmers already had laid down hygiene procedures, and now it is more of scaling up the efforts.
COVID-19 Challenges and Zimbabwean Farmers’ Needs
Maintaining social distance is harming agricultural produce marketing. In Zimbabwe, the urban market centres which are operating more informally are the main markets for a wide range of commodities hence can attract huge human traffic posing a high risk to COVID19. In lockdown time, these markets are closed, and farmers with fresh produce suffer huge losses.
Reduced demand for agricultural products can be attributed to reduced economic activity hence decline in disposable incomes, especially amongst the self-employed.
In times of pandemic like COVID19 farmers need to have more collaborative efforts. To ensure that produce marketing happens at the urban markets, farmers have to meet the COVID19 management recommendations, and this requires high levels of orderliness and organisation. Collective marketing becomes handy in these times of social distancing.
For the fresh produce, there is a need to put in place measures to manage postharvest losses, and this includes low-cost value addition technologies like solar drying and high-tech measures like cold rooms and freezers. Farmers in their commodity associations can pool resources together to have postharvest handling facilities in place to manage losses quickly.
In this high-risk environment production planning for fresh produce is now very important and farmers should stagger their plantings in anticipation of low demand
There might be reduced physical contact with support services institutions, and farmers have to make use of online/ virtual platforms like WhatsApp to get the required support.
What the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union is doing to help its farmers
In these challenging times, ZFU is continuing with its role of disseminating information to its members and facilitating value chain linkages
The Union is also engaging the government to be supportive of the farming communities in these difficult times.
Government’s support to Zimbabwean farmers
There is a need for a stimulus package directly targeted at supporting food value chains. In times of pandemics like COVID 19 food supply chains can be disturbed and government can provide that liquidity for farmers go back to the fields and to put in place infrastructure like postharvest handling facilities to keep the excess produce.
There is a need to have measures to manage loans so to ensure that there is continuity of production after the pandemic.