FUNL Reaches Out to Vulnerable Farmers Amid COVID-19

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Food and non-food items donated to farmers in Tartee Town, #7, Montserrado County

-Donates Food, non-food items to help ease economic burdens

The Farmers Union Network of Liberia (FUNL) has identified with vulnerable farming communities with the provision of food and non-food items for their upkeep amid COVID-19 scourge.

The beneficiaries of the donations, who are farmers from Montserrado and Margibi Counties that have been rendered by the pandemic, were also provided high yield corn seeds and bags of fertilizer.

The donations include 10 bags of 25kg rice, 5 gallons of palm oil, as well as detergent and disinfectant materials for hand washing purposes.

FUNL president Madam Josephine George-Francis and a team carried out the distribution on Friday where she met face-to-face with scores of local farmers and had brief discussions over the numerous challenges the pandemic is posing to the sector.

Farming communities that benefited the gestures include Tartee town in Montserrado County District #7 and Daniel Town in Margibi.

“COVID-19 has caused food systems to be disrupted—rendering food security fragile for most people, especially smallholder farming families,” The FUNL president said during the presentation at Tartee town.

“Our thoughts are with our farmers whose lives have been disrupted and impacted by this pandemic. Every day, we at FUNL are striving to make meaningful adjustments to our work to sustain support for our members,” said Madam Francis.

Rainy season is normally a tough time for subsistence farmers as they frequently face a period of hunger, a situation that is being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak seems to have brought the farming season to a halt as movement and close contacts are barred to help curb the spread of the virus.

“This is why this donation exercise could not have come at a better time. Our farmers do face a lot of challenges for food during this period and the crisis is making it worse,” Francis noted.

It is no secret that the crisis has caused disruptions in domestic food supply chains and loss of incomes is creating strong tensions and food security risks among farmers.

Labor shortages (due to morbidity, movement restrictions, social distancing rules) are starting to impact producers, processors, traders and trucking/logistics companies in food supply chains – particularly for food products that require workers to be in close proximity. Lack of seedlings is another major concern.

There is a need for swift, informed action to support these vulnerable communities, and it is against this backdrop that FUNL, Madam Francis said, thought to reach out to scores of farmers in the two Counties. The union was founded 12 years ago and has over 55,000 members across the country.

“FUNL is adopting innovative and creative methods of continuing to serve, reach, and support scores of smallholder or subsistence farmers,” she said.

FUNL president, Madam Josephine George Francis, speaking to farmers in Margibi County

Madam Francis urged the farmers to observe to the health protocols that have been instituted in order to keep safe.

“You have to wash your hands frequently and observed social distancing. Also sneeze in your elbows so that you don’t have your hands contaminated. These are important to keep you safe and well as we look forward to ending this crisis in our country,” she said.

Alarmed by a potential rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and organizations are mounting special efforts to keep agriculture activities safely progressing, despite movement restrictions and income losses.

It is in this vein that the World Bank provided US$10.5 million to the government to address a food security, nutrition and livelihood plan aimed at mitigating the impacts of the Coronavirus on the country’s food security and livelihood.

Triggered by reports of difficulties farmers face to increase production and access better markets due to lockdown restrictions, the fund will provide grants to farmers and improve infrastructures among others.

FUNL president hopes that this assistance will reach the farmers who have the greatest need and are severely impacted by the outbreak.

“Our farmers are in dire need of help during this critical period and we hope some of them will be attended to through this gesture,” Madam Francis said.

Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries in both towns were Emmanuel Sherman and Ma Lorpu Gizieh. Both lauded FUNL for thinking about them during such a difficult period. “We are so grateful for these things. This sickness is making life so difficult for us the farmers. And we thank God that you were able to think about us,” Ma Lorpu said.

Meanwhile, the donations to the farmers were made possible through support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

This regional NGO has been supporting FUNL through other initiatives such as the donation of office equipment and some logistical supports as well as funding a project titled, “Promoting Greater Farmers Participation for Policy Change.

It can be recalled that recently, OSIWA donated six lap top computers and six motorbikes to FUNL to implement the project.

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