Olam International rallies support to aid small-holder farmers impacted by COVID-19

GLOBAL – Olam International has indicated the need for redoubled public and private collaboration to build resilience of small-holder farmers in emerging markets impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiatives are aimed to encourage crop and income diversification, access to finance, promotion of health and human rights, and preservation of the environment.

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The global food and agri-business company undertook a survey in July of 2,400 smallholder farmers growing cocoa, coffee, sesame, cotton, and other crops in Africa and Indonesia.

The survey revealed that more than half of the farmers were experiencing shortages in basic food and nutrition due to movement restrictions, food price increases, insufficient stocks at home and less income.

“In recent years, there has been some progress towards helping thousands of small-scale farmers become more resilient to shocks, including price drops, pests, and climate change impacts,” said Julie Greene, leading Olam’s social strategy.

“But we must make sure this is not derailed. We need to redouble our public and private collaboration.”

Ms Greene highlighted that the Olam team is now mapping the recent COVID-19 survey findings with the AtSource programme data to identify hotspots where farmers may be most vulnerable.

“Some AtSource Plus programmes already include nutrition data but we are now ramping up focus on this critical area across the business,” adds Ms Greene.

Such insights enable collaboration with Olam on improvement programmes.

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Co-founder and Group CEO Sunny Verghese added, “Calories alone do not equate to good health, and we must do our best to avoid allowing COVID-19 to trigger a vicious cycle of reduced incomes, increased malnutrition, increased susceptibility to illness and, thereafter, its continued spread and economic consequences.”

In response to COVID-19, Olam has already committed US$5.7 million in financial and in-kind donations for relief and essential healthcare for farmers and rural communities.

Over the next 6 months the group will be mobilising partnerships to provide 40,000 vulnerable households with food and health kits.

Also, it will be offering support on food crop production, crop diversification and storage capacity through distribution of food crop inputs and support for livestock, issuing credit for inputs and labour and training on crop storage and pest management.

To promote health, they will communicate essential nutrition and health information to 500,000 households and improve access to health for 40,000 households through extending basic health services to rural areas and construction of water points and latrines.

“These immediate relief efforts must also be accompanied by approaches that address the underlying challenges that left many communities so exposed.

“We must collaborate across landscapes to scale regenerative agriculture; foster health, nutrition and human rights; facilitate access to farmer services, especially those related to post-harvest handling and storage; and promote market mechanisms for fair prices and sustainable practices,” Mr Verghese stated.

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