Farmers in Asia Weather COVID-19 Pandemic

By Heifer International

July 10, 2020

A woman crouches down by a blazing clay stove. She is wearing a purple and blue sari and is protected from falling rains by an awning.
Monsoon rains make navigating the COVID-19 pandemic even more challenging for residents of Bihar, India. Photo by Olivier Asselin.

As the COVID-19 pandemic affects lives and economies around the globe, Heifer International employees are continuing the work of ending hunger and poverty despite quarantines, shortages and travel bans. Below are a few dispatches from Heifer country offices that are having adapting in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

India (June 29)

In Bihar, citizens are facing the challenge of monsoon season in addition to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed 16,504 lives in India so far. According to experts in the India Meteorological Department, this is the earliest that rain-bearing clouds have entered Bihar in the last 10 years. So far, 300 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the area with more expected to rise due to these seasonal rains and the instability, food scarcity and loss of income that come along with them. 

A man hoes a field while his son crouches on the ground, ready to plant seeds in the freshly-dug earth.
Bihar, a region pummeled by monsoon rains every year, is vulnerable to flooding. Photo by Olivier Asselin.

In Odisha, 38 positive cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported from Heifer International project areas, with 20 Heifer families testing positive for the illness. Heifer offices are beginning to open and are selectively sending staff members into the field to resume work with communities while maintaining all the necessary precautions for their safety, including maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and frequent handwashing.


Cambodia (July 6)

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is actively encouraging out-of-work citizens to take up farming. The Ministry hopes to boost Cambodia’s economy and prevent a massive food shortage now that the country’s borders have closed. Additionally, the government is giving those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic a cash payment to help them survive the duration of the shutdown. 

A Cambodian man stands in front of a refrigerated produce section of a local grocery store holding a fresh vegetable.
The threat of a national food shortage looms in Cambodia as restrictions brought on by the pandemic make it difficult for farmers to sell their goods.  Photo by Russell Powell.

Though the reported cases of the coronavirus in Cambodia are relatively low at 141, citizens are still struggling. Transportation limitations have made it difficult for Heifer farmers to sell their products to their typical customers in Phnom Penh. Additionally, market prices have dropped, creating income shortages for farmers even when they can find a way to sell crops and livestock. Project partners are continuing their activities but are avoiding mass gatherings.


Bangladesh (July 5) 

As of July 5, 2020, Bangladesh has reported 162,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and

A woman and a small child walk down a dirt road away from the camera. The woman is wearing a bright red sari.
Bangladesh is among the countries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. No outbreaks have been reported in communities working with Heifer. Photo by Russell Powell.

2,052 coronavirus-related deaths. These figures, combined with the rapid spread of the virus within the country, have boosted Bangladesh into a top 20 ranking of countries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though community transmission of the COVID-19 virus is increasing very quickly in many areas, no outbreaks have been reported in communities Heifer is working with.  Using TV, Facebook, other media sources and cell phones, Heifer farmers are keeping an eye on the progress of the pandemic and learning how to prevent its spread. Heifer Bangladesh has temporarily canceled all group meetings for the safety of staff and participants and is encouraging staff to work from home, when possible.