Cotton Farming and Covid-19: On the Ground in India


Published Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

In our new Q&A series, we interview BCI Implementing Partners (on-the-ground partners in charge of delivering the BCI Programme) who are supporting BCI Farmers and farming communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the first Q&A, we speak with three partners in India.

Lupin Human Welfare & Research Foundation

Tell us how Lupin Foundation has adapted its practices to support those most in need during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Lupin Foundation has donated 15,500 masks and 1,850 hand sanitisers to rural communities in selected districts, as well as delivering groceries to more than 1,000 farming families in the Dhule District. Additionally, we have supported 14,500 migrant farm workers by providing food packages, and we will continue to do so throughout the duration of the pandemic.

There are also many people taking individual action. For example, BCI Field Facilitator (a teacher, employed by Implementing Partners, who delivers on-the-ground training to BCI Farmers) Harshal Bramhankar and his family have stitched 600 face masks and distributed them to local communities, covering the costs themselves. One of the Lupin Foundation managers, Mr. Parag Naik, worked with the local government to ensure 150 women farm workers (who were working in Gujarat) safely returned to their families.

How is the situation affecting Lupin Foundation staff?

The team are all deeply concerned by the pandemic, and they are going out of their way to support the farming communities we work so closely with. All Lupin Foundation team members have decided to donate INR 500 (or a day’s salary – whichever is higher) to Lupin Foundation who will match the total sum and distribute the donations to the community. This money will be used to support health workers and families who are struggling because of the pandemic.

 

Welspun Foundation for Health and Knowledge

How is Welspun Foundation using its networks to share important Covid-19 messages and updates with rural farming communities?

Welspun created WhatsApp groups for all 253 BCI Learning Groups (small groups of BCI Farmers who receive training together) that we’re responsible for, reaching 3,528 farmers. We have been using the platform to share regular up-to-date advice as per the World Health Organization and Ministry of Health guidelines. We have also delivered specialist trainings and demonstrations to 430 farm workers, and 310 women, who will work as volunteers and share the important messages by word-of-mouth with family, friends, fellow workers and community members.

What else is happening on the ground to help people stay safe and protect themselves from Covid-19?

In partnership with local hospitals, the Welspun team have been helping to set up health camps and community awareness programmes in rural villages. This initiative has reached more than 1,000 people so far. The programmes focus on identifying the symptoms of Covid-19, taking precautions against the virus, exploring methods for boosting immunity and more.

 

Coastal Salinity Prevention Cell (CSPC)

How is CSPC helping BCI Farmers to prepare for the upcoming cotton season in the face of Covid-19 challenges?

The CSPC team, including BCI Field Facilitators, are continuously engaging with farmers by sending regular WhatsApp messages covering guidelines and precautionary measures to be taken in light of Covid-19. So far, we have reached around 15,000 farmers, encouraging them to also pass on the information to their families and communities.

Field Facilitators are also making at least 20 calls a day each to BCI Farmers, checking in with them about their plans for the upcoming cotton season, answering questions, giving farming advice, as well as sharing precautionary measures to take during the current pandemic.

Are you employing any innovative communication methods to reach farmers and farming communities?

To raise awareness of the precautions to take against Covid-19, we have worked with well-known local personalities to create short engaging videos. We are then sharing these videos with local communities through WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms.