It’s been a rough year for farmers, and it’s not just Covid-19 anymore. Farmers are always dealing with uncertainty, but this year takes the game to a whole new level.
Locusts – India and Argentina
Locusts have attacked farms in India and Argentina. GFN farmer Balwinder Singh Kang from India participated in a webinar on LinkedIn about the attack on his farm. He explained how he and his neighbors sent the locusts packing – this time. These are locusts destroying a paddy crop in India. These are locusts laying eggs in the soil in India. Each female lays several pods of eggs which can contain about 50 baby locusts each.
Derecho in Iowa
On August 10th, a storm called a “derecho” made its way across much of Iowa in a path of destruction. Damage to the corn crop is still being tabulated, but early estimates suggested about a third of Iowa’s corn crop was flattened. GFN farmer Tim Keegan’s farm was in the path of destruction. He shared these comments about the event.
Severe Storms in Brazil
Shortly after the derecho in Iowa, (August 22nd) this happened in the state of Parana in Brazil, where GFN member Luiz Roberto Saldanha Rodrigues and his wife grow and market coffee. This intense storm brought wind and hail which damaged their crops and their infrastructure. In an announcement, Luiz and Flavia shared their decision to rebuild. They were thankful that no one was hurt.
Arson in South Africa
When the lockdown started in South Africa, people from the residential areas came to steal maize from Motlatsi Musi’s immature field. Police had their hands full trying to help. Even police cells were overcrowded. Motlatsi used physical force to get them out of his field.
Later, someone set Motlatsi’s camp on fire. Above is a pile of harvested maize that was destroyed by fire. Motlatsi says the damage reached more than 20000 South African Rand. That’s more than $1,200 US.
Later, vandals struck the crop that was still in the field. SEE THIS VIDEO. During the middle of the night, Motlatsi was alerted that his field was on fire. This field was late in being harvested because of Covid-19. His customers, popcorn companies, were unable to take the crop because of schools being closed. And Motlatsi didn’t have storage space for the crop, so it stayed in the field.
Musi speculates that the same people may be to blame in both incidents. In the area there is a push and pull for land with “squatter camps” growing in size. He says one of his fellow farmers lost three cattle to this kind of lawlessness recently – and that was not the first time.
Security Issues in Uganda, Zimbabwe
When Motlatsi Musi was sharing his story about arson on his farm in South Africa, it sounded familiar to Grace Bwogi from Uganda. She is challenged with finding food for her livestock because of arson taking place on her farm.
Ruramiso Mashumba farms in nearby Zimbabwe. She has hired armed guards and gotten dogs on her farm to battle the real problem of security in the area
Covid Market Dive and Movement Rules Hurt Farmers in Uganda
In Uganda, when the government took measures to lockdown movement from April to July, farmers were affected most. The government assumed that all farmers stayed on their farms, which is not the case. Grace Bwogi lost over 70 goats because she couldn’t be on her farm to take care of them. She couldn’t deliver the medications her herd needed. Some of the animals were stolen.
Grace also grows bananas. Their prices went down because cargo movement became so expensive that she couldn’t get her product to market. She was forced to send workers on leave for 2 months. She shared the bananas with hungry neighbors and fed them to her livestock.
Input Problems in Nigeria
Patience Koku, a farmer from Nigeria said the lockdown has hurt yields on her farm. “Our supply system was disturbed. Fertilizer supply was disturbed and there was so much problem and till this moment, we still have low yield because we could not import inputs for our operations.” Adding to the yield problem, rains started early and ended abruptly.
Wise Words from Ravichandran Vanchinathan, India
“Right from the day we condition our land for sowing and until we harvest, market and realise the produce, we are exposed to variety of risks. Risk taking is unavoidable in any avocation. Farming is no exception. However, the kind of risk we the farmers undertake is unique. In economic parlance risk and return go together. More the risk, more should be the return and vice versa. It is an irony that in farming there is inverse relationship between risk and return.
While nurturing our crops we, fight against all odds stacked up against us. We have to fight against abiotic stresses, such as drought and flood conditions that threaten us in India, biotic stresses like locust damages that our farmer friends like Balwinder Singh Kangh from India and my farmer colleagues in Africa face. Even after overcoming all these struggles, our products like the lichi harvested by Sudhanshu Kumar of India, perished due to the delay in customs clearance. We have to expect the unexpected. Now we are hearing of the arson in Motlasi’s field. All these adverse conditions dampen our spirit. However we continue our farm activities. Besides earning for our livelihood, we have the responsibility of feeding the world with enough food, providing enough fiber and fuel. That social commitment keeps us going. We the GFN members must discuss and address these adverse factors and find ways and means to mitigate such losses in future.
Besides fighting pests, disease, weeds, drought and floods in the farm front, often we the farmers have to face other unforeseen events like arson, policy paralysis of the government, trade related issues and now this pandemic which has crippled the movement of our produce. I wish normalcy returns soon.”