On March 20, several major cities in Colombia decreed social isolation as a mitigation measure against the spread of COVID-19. Transit on public roads, organizing social gatherings or opening businesses was banned. On March 24, Colombian President Ivan Duque extended the measure to the entire country, covering 50 million people. Among other big concerns was how to guarantee a continuous flow of food to the whole country. HarvestPlus adjusted its seed delivery procedures to contribute to the crisis and provide food security.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, HarvestPlus sent biofortified seeds to public technical assistance entities for small producers called Unidades Municipales de Asistencia Técnica Agropecuaria or UMATAS and to Agricultural Secretaries. These entities are located in the different municipalities of Colombia. After sending the seeds, HarvestPlus invited the producers in the area to a training session where the seeds were delivered directly.
However, due to the social distancing measures implemented, it is not possible to travel to the area. That is why the team in Colombia, together with 15 partners through the country, established deliveries through traditional mail operators. In this new modality, the partners will visit the farmers to ensure the supply of seed, avoiding the displacement of the producers and preventing further infections. Additionally, partners will have virtual training in charge of HarvestPlus about biofortified crops. It is also planned to use WhatsApp as a training mechanism for farmers without the need of having close contact.
Adjustments were not made exclusively in the shipment of seeds. Cristhian Guerrero and Diana Rojas, from the HarvestPlus team in Colombia, received special instructions on biosecurity measures that include adjusting their workplaces to have a distance greater than 2 meters, using equipment that prevents infection such as mask and gloves and washing their hands constantly. All this in order to be able to select, pack and ship the seed.
With these adjustments in seed delivery, HarvestPlus is expected to benefit over 1550 farming households and take advantage of the next planting cycle that is just beginning, while strengthening food security in these tough times for the country.
Decree 457 of 2020 establishes several restrictions on mobility for 19 days throughout the country until April 13. Among its measures are 34 exceptions that seek to guarantee the right to life, health and survival of the country’s inhabitants in which the chain of sowing, harvesting and production of seeds and agricultural products is mentioned.