“Access to affordable and quality food for all, today and in the future.” This is our mission and during this corona crisis it is more relevant but also more difficult than ever.
That’s why we want to put the spotlight on all the heroes that keep going, sometimes under extreme circumstances such as today, to make sure that we have what we need. From farmers to transport employees and to anyone who puts healthy and tasty food on the table for children, the elderly, and those who are temporarily unable to do it themselves.
FoodHeroes all over the world take care of the food we put on our plate. Also, our colleagues from Rikolto all over the world continue to work to ensure better food for tomorrow. Here are their stories.
For some cooperatives, the declaration of the state of emergency has influenced the loss of up to 30% of their workforce on key harvest dates. But at the "La Prosperidad" Coffee Farming Cooperative, the response was not long in coming.
"The producers have taken up the challenge in the present harvest by practicing solidarity. The minga is back," they explain in one sentence, referring to the Andean-peasant tradition of collective work.
The secret of the business goes beyond solidarity. "In the midst of the crisis, we also count on the contribution of our associates to continue operating. We have promoted a culture of saving, which today allows us to have solvency in the organization", explains Michael Montalvan, General Manager of Chirinos. This is the perfect example of how the members of the cooperative "live the values", beating a threat through collectivity.
Since 2018, Rikolto and Allegro Coffee have contributed to strengthening a culture of saving that anticipates crisis scenarios. Today that culture stands up to the pandemic and allows not only the continuity of operations, but also anticipated access to a pension fund in times of need. This way, La Prosperidad guarantees coffee-growing families a certain economic stability in uncertain times.
Just as rice, cocoa and coffee, cinnamon farmers continue to work to meet the food demand during this pandemic. Tani Sakti Alam Kerinci (TAKTIK) cinnamon farmers, Rikolto's partner in Indonesia, was seen processing their products in Talang Kemuning Village, Kerinci Regency, on the island of Jambi.
The cooperative's cinnamon plots are mostly located at the border with Kerinci Seblat National Park, so that farmers’ cooperation is needed to protect the national park ecosystem through sustainable agroforestry and intercropping practices.
At the same time, Rikolto pushed the Payment for Ecosystem Services component to prevent farmers from expanding their cultivated area and managed to increase their incomes.
In 2019, Rikolto linked TAKTIK with major buyers of the sector, while also helping the organisation to get international organic certificates according to the international standards.
Nowadays, 340 TAKTIK members obtained the certificates, meaning that they have fulfilled the requirements in applying sustainable environmental concepts, in addition to preserving biodiversity in the Talang Kemuning ecosystem. Water management in this region is also maintained due to farmers' collaborative tree planting.
Last but not least, in 2019, TAKTIK received an award from the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture for their ability to develop downstream business activities, marking a significant milestone for the organisation in their journey of building a sustainable value chain.
Two months after the start of quarantaine in Peru, our partner cooperative Pangoa is operating almost at 100%, with protocols implemented, export contracts closed, and prospects for growing its bet on the local market, thanks to the work of committees, boards and young members of the cooperative.
"We have a committee against Covid. We coordinate with the hospital, health promoters," explains Esperanza Dionisio, the cooperative's manager, adding that the cooperative has always looked after the well-being of its member families, which has earned it the trust of its customers.
In the next edition of the Cocoa and Chocolate Salon in Peru, Pangoa will promote products made by the new generations of the cooperative: chocolates, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, roasted coffee, liquor and honey, products that in recent years have become a new source of income of the cooperative (5% of total profits). An diversification that will undoubtedly be useful in a somewhat uncertain post-pandemic scenario for export-dependent organizations.
Do you want to know more about Rikolto's work with Pangoa to promote the sustainability of Peruvian cocoa?
"The idea came to me from seeing a friend who was trying to source fresh produce spending up to 3 hours to find quality, price and volume, by the time he had all the information someone else had bought it," says Alvaro Ramirez, founder of eHarvestHub.
"That's why we created eHarvestHub, an online platform where farmers can directly sell to retailers without middlemen. You can place your order, know where the product comes from, its quality and meet your volume demand. The platform aggregates the volume across multiple growers so small-scale farmers can participate in the sale."
Rikolto has been involved in the eHarvestHub pilot project with Walmart and 4 vegetable cooperatives in Nicaragua that include Rikolto's partners: Coosempoda and Coosmprojin.
The pilot is underway and enables the participating coops’ small-scale members to meet the industry’s traceability standards giving retailers like Walmart all the necessary data to ensure its customers their fresh produce is safe. This is first step for small-scale farmers to take a seat at the global food table.
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, vegetable sales have fallen, and consumers concern about the origin of their food has increased. Farmers wanting to directly access consumers has given way the joined effort from Rikolto and eHarvestHub to create Naju.io where consumers can directly reach producers who follow strict food safety rules and Covid-19 prevention protocols and have their food delivered to their home.
In this way farmers will be prepared with another market alternative in case they declare a national quarantine.
Want to know about how Rikolto it is contributing to transform the horticultural sector in Nicaragua?
When the time comes, cocoa farmers inevitably must leave their house to carry out a bunch of field activities like pruning, fertilising, sanitation, and harvesting. Because if they don’t, cocoa will rot and this will eventually damage the entire farm, leading to a decrease in the income the farmers get from it. With this in mind, in early April, members of the Masagena farmer cooperative, located in North Luwu Regency, South Sulawesi, immediately went down to the farm to harvest their cocoa.
During the outbreak of Covid -19, practices of wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and keeping a distance while on the farm are consciously carried out by the farmers. Pick-up and delivery activities are still done by Masagena farmers, who always take the necessary precautions during their work.
Thanks to various business partnerships, Masagena has been able to sell their products to Europe and the United States. At the same time, in collaboration with Calodo, it produces chocolate products for sale on the local market. In addition, Masagena has been able to teach the secrets of cocoa cultivation and business to many young people in the area with the help of local government, so that farmers can finally realise that cocoa business can provide sufficient income for their families.
May is a key month for the coffee cooperatives of Cajamarca in Peru. Many contracts and shipments with international clients are defined for these dates. And then Covid-19 came along. As a result of the state of emergency, our partner Aprocassi found a new challenge: to recover the confidence of its main customers, at a distance.
We called more than 500 producers to inform them of the decisions and perspectives of the cooperative in the face of the crisis. Their most frequent question is 'Will I be able to sell my coffee?'", says Paulo Lachira, Aprocassi's communicator.
"Our clients know the challenges and protocols assumed", explains Paulo. Thanks to the efforts of traceability, timely and transparent information with customers, the cooperative has managed to renew its contracts for already 60% of its export volume, ensuring their source of income.
Communication became an important component of Aprocassi's Management, and its professionalisation strategy, since three years ago helped to turn around the social crisis the team was facing. Today, its communication is once again playing a fundamental role in reinforcing the trust that producers and clients have in the organisation.
Interested in learning more about Rikolto's work with Aprocassi?
That was the message of the campaign organised by smallholder groups from Ngudi Rezeki and Bina Lingkungan of Jatisari and Andong Village in Boyolali District, Central Java. The campaign was organised at the beginning of the month while they were in the process of cultivating and removing seedlings, followed by rice planting. Both groups are members of the Boyolali Organic Rice Farmers Association (APPOLI) which is one of Rikolto's partners in Indonesia.
But what is the background of this campaign? To reduce the risk of COVID-19, many governments, including the Indonesian government, encourage the public to carry out their activities at home. By inviting people to stay at home, farmers realize how important it is to take care of their health and others’ during the pandemic. At the same time, farmers demonstrate their will to maintain the food supply.
During this time, farmers do their work in slightly different ways. Wearing masks and keeping their distances are some of the ways to reduce risk. Washing their hands before and after work contribute to farmers' efforts to take care of themselves and those around them. The process of planting itself is done with the usual technique, manually or with a trans-planter. Tillage method, seed extraction, and rice planting are essential in rice cultivation, so these three cannot be abandoned if we like to maintain our food supply.
The APPOLI cooperative has a broad domestic organic rice market with buyers from various regions. APPOLI's agricultural land is mostly in semi-irrigated areas so that they can grow rice a maximum of twice a year. Meanwhile, the remaining time outside rice planting is filled with planting corn, soybeans, green beans and peanuts that do not require much water.
In 2018, after successfully establishing relations with Australian buyers, APPOLI added the voice of exports to its broad domestic organic rice market. The profits generated by exported rice are used to pay the certification that was previously paid by the government. Salute to APPOLI farmers!
Universities have an important role to play in the prevention of the current pandemic and the ones that work within the agricultural sector even more. "Not only are we providing online classes", says Olivia Brizuela of the Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlántico (CURLA) in Honduras.
"CURLA will also be delivering the food we produce on our grounds to the Divina Providencia Home for the Elderly, the Atlantida General Hospital and in the Los Laureles neighborhood." At least 190 households should benefit of this action. Also, as university, they are contributing with machines to clean the streets in the cities for the prevention of COVID19.
With CURLA, Rikolto has coordinated the development of three diploma courses for cocoa production under agroforestry systems with young cocoa farmers from Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. This happens with the support of the Collibri Foundation.
Want to know more about the collaboration between Rikolto, the Honduran university and the Belgian supermarket to support the future of young cocoa farmers in Central America?
The state of emergency in Quito, Ecuador put many farmer families, who regularly delivered food from the countryside to the city, in a tight spot. In a short period of time, transportation was paralyzed or limited, and the government closed the main fairs or producer markets to avoid contagion risks.
This made essential the union between professional organisations of producers and citizens to promote alternative food networks during the crisis. Networks that today supply vulnerable areas of Quito with so-called "agro ecological food baskets".
These baskets contain a package of seasonal products that ensure income for producers and a continuous supply of healthy food, at an affordable price, for families in southern Quito.
“Fifteen dollars is what a family in the south of Quito spends weekly on food, and that is also the price of our baskets," explains Roberto Guerrero, coordinator of the Madre Tierra Healthy Food Distribution System, promoted by the South-Being Networks and Flavors Cooperative. It's a consumer organisation in southern Quito that, in alliance with small producers, promotes the agro-ecological fairs located in that area of the city, which are today paralysed by COVID-19.
Roberto clarifies that these prices are agreed upon in an assembly with producers and consumers. "We think that the most vulnerable sectors cannot be excluded from consumption, that is why we organise ourselves to provide healthy and sovereign food at an affordable price."
Starting this year, this vision fosters the alliance between the cooperative and Rikolto, which is part of a strategy to articulate food initiatives, today more necessary than ever for families in Ecuador.
Discover how Rikolto is promoting affordable quality food for Quito's consumers.
Because of the COVID19 crisis, the demand for rice has increased, because it can easily be kept for a long time. To meet the food needs in the areas around Boyolali, the farmers and peasants of our partner Boyolali Organic Farmers Association (APOB) continue their rice processing, from Monday to Saturday, from 08:00 to 16:00, with an hour's rest. They do the processing as usual once the rice comes out of the rice mill, but now they do it slightly differently.
Everyone wears a mask during the work, and they wash their hands more often, before and after each processing phase. The first stage in the processing is the blowing process, to remove the dust from the rice. The second phase is filtering, separating the whole grains from the broken rice and remaining husks. Next, sorting is carried out to remove impurities such as stones or other impurities. The final stage is to pack the rice in bags and send them to the buyers.
In one day, seven processors can produce about a tonne of rice. But if the quality of the rice deteriorates, such as during the rainy season, they can only produce half a tonne.
So our #Food Heroes are the people - the majority of whom are women - who keep things running: Wartini, Kartini, Tiani, Partinah, Yami, Suparmi, Sri Mulyani. Suparji and Kasiyo, Wagiyem and Kasiyo. Thanks to all of them!
Together with 4 partners, Rikolto in Belgium is launching a new soup, with an amazing story: Robin Food. The soup is made from surplus vegetables for which the farmers of REO Veiling and other regional suppliers have difficulties finding a market due to the corona crisis. These vegetables are transformed into soup at the social enterprise enVie.
In the short term, 20.000 liters of soup will be sold under the Robin Food brand. But it does not stop there. Riso Vlaams-Brabant and Rikolto wish to introduce other products offering a solution to food surpluses in the coming months, while giving people in vulnerable situations access to healthy and sustainable food.
"COVID-19 has effectively changed consumption habits in Ouagadougou" says Mireille Bakawan, promoter of an e-commerce platform for prepared fruits and vegetables in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
"Some inhabitants have started to stockpile food at home, which they were not used to do. Also, with the closure of the markets, many Facebook pages selling fruit and vegetables with home delivery were created, which brings more competition for our business. We are therefore trying to find out how to adapt our work. For example, we have started to offer a weekly vegetable basket with almost all the ingredients for local sauces. Also, we take care to disinfect our products before delivery and communicate as much as possible about the prevention measures we take."
Mireille Bakawan participated in the workshop "Agricultural entrepreneurship by young people for sustainable rural and urban food systems in West Africa" organised by Rikolto jointly with FAO and YPARD, in October 2019.
Jeremia Ayo from the Muvikiho farmer organisation in Arusha in Tanzania is a strong advocate for all food chain actors, from farmers to sellers, to work together to ensure there is food on everyone's plate: "We have all been affected by this pandemic. As farmers, we have to continue to work hard to ensure there is enough food in the country and the world, especially during the Corona crisis. Let us fight this by producing quality and safe food, and ensuring food is available, affordable and accessible to consumers. Here is my request to all food actors: Let us join together during this difficult moment to ensure people have access to quality, safe and affordable food."
Discover how Rikolto is working towards Good Food for the City of Arusha.
"We need the children to be informed so that they can take action in their home and at school. So our Ecoclub, a club of young people working on recycling waste as a livelihood, went to the schools to inform kids, make educational murals with the children and some even took the children along to teach them ideas in their own neighborhood," says Ana Herrera from the Children's Association Tuktan Sirpi, who with her Ecoclub project participates in the multi-stakeholder platform MASLAGO facilitated by Rikolto in Jinotega.
This department, particularly the area round Lake Apanás, is good for 60% of all vegetables consumed nationally in Nicaragua.
In Nicaragua, the government has not organised a shutdown or lockdowns, only primary preventive measures. This means farmers and the entire food sector remain in operation, and at risk. MASLAGO is a space that promotes change in production practices to reduce sedimentation and contamination of the lake. They promote campaigns to collect agro-chemical packaging and solid waste to save one of the main sources of water for agriculture and various economic activities.
Want to know how sustainable production can save a lake in Nicaragua?