Food Security and COVID-19 in Honduras’ Dry Corridor
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Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Jim Winkler, VP of the Economic Growth Division at Creative, and Dan Mooney, the Project Director for the Dry Corridor Alliance project in Honduras, discuss food security and the importance of bringing technical assistance to farmers in an already fragile environment.
About the project:
The project is funded by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program through the World Bank. It is part of the larger Alliance for the Dry Corridor, which aims to lift 50,000 families out of extreme poverty and reduce under-nutrition by 20 percent in target communities. Along with INVEST-Honduras, a major focus of the project centers on food production and income generation, seeking to increase families’ income through both agriculture and non-agriculture plans. Capacity building on good agricultural practices, providing agriculture inputs and the installation of drip-irrigation systems (1,000 hectares) have helped to increase yields and create a better standard of living for small scale farmers in the region.
These practices are supplemented with training on good hygiene practices and behavior change in consumption of produce.
Read the transcript:
Jim Winkler: Hi Dan, how are you doing?
Dan Mooney: Good. Okay, Jim. How are things on your side? How is D.C. treating you?
Jim Winkler: D.C. is fine. We still have infections rising and death rates going up. How are things in Guatemala City?
Dan Mooney: I think we’re – at that, I think these two weeks are going to be the peak weeks on infection. That’s what the president has said on the news the other day.
Jim Winkler: I’m curious. I saw the communication that the president, of Honduras, has declared a national emergency and that food security issues are tops on his agenda. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Dan Mooney: Yes, well one of the things that he – what he did – that the president did at the beginning, on the onslaught of the virus, he basically, on the 16th of March, closed down all borders on the 16th of March. But he also had a priority of health. Then they saw that there was issues with supplies, agricultural supplies. So, they issued, on the 9th of April, they issued the emergency decree. Which is basically priority to be able to go out in the production of agricultural products in the field and also the value-added Agri businesses related to agriculture. So, they want all like the finance, transport to focus on that, and other entities to help support that big push to be able to create production in the field.
Jim Winkler: When is the planting season in the dry corridor, what’s the prioritization they have for that particular area?
Dan Mooney: So, the rainy season is already out there. In some places, it has already started to rain. So, a lot of these farmers are planting or preparing their fields at this moment to plant. But one of the things that we know, without proper technical assistance, to that, man, if they don’t have all the fertilizer and that, their yields could down again, at lower levels. In Honduras, the levels are low already.
Jim Winkler: Yeah. So, the bigger issue is really getting the agricultural inputs of seeds and fertilizers to them in time?
Dan Mooney: That is one. But I think the main issues there is the technical assistance to them, to the farmers. Because they can plant because some of them have their own seeds that they left over from their crop last year. But the technical assistance to keep increasing, not to lower. Because they can be lowering maybe 50 percent of the yields if they don’t get proper technical assistance on that.
The other thing I wanted to mention, Jim, is that a lot is focused also – as you know, the rainy season will start. Then you have a time, a period of people are very concerned. Us is concerned. The Government of Honduras is concerned. If they don’t have their drip irrigation systems in place with that, they could lose 50 percent or more, or 100 percent of the crops like has happened before because of the draught.
Jim Winkler: Yeah. Have people been thinking about alternative technical assistance, delivery systems like radio or SMS messaging or other ways of reaching the farmers?
Dan Mooney: So, some of the projects have been communicated with them. That’s one of the things using the internalization to be able to get out to them. But basically, it’s talking to them. It’s communicating. But one of the things in that area is to try to get the technical assistance out to the area. That’s – speaking with the client, that’s one of the things that they’re looking at to do a combination of – take technical people going out and also the digital platforms to be able to help the farmers on those good agriculture practices, good hygiene practices out there.
Jim Winkler: Yeah. It’s a really difficult time for people. That’s also one of the poorest areas in Honduras, right?
Dan Mooney: That is correct. 65 percent of the people are poor in that area.
Jim Winkler: They’re all farmers, subsistence farmers or –
Dan Mooney: Well, most of that. With the project, we work with – about 42 percent of the people we work with are extremely poor.
Jim Winkler: Well, that’s really helpful so I understand better what’s going on out there. Let’s monitor this over the coming months and make sure that the harvest goes well and that they’re going to have the food they need to feed people. Otherwise, it could be a real disaster.
Dan Mooney: Oh, definitely. As you also know, as the government before, around the 18th or the 20th of March, they came out with the solidarity bags which are food items to get out to the most needy. So, we need to maintain the production out in the fields because a lot of the buyers will be going out into the field to buy to be able to supply to those solidarity bags. So, it’s important to keep those yields up and plant as much land as possible.
Jim Winkler: Yeah, that’s great. Well, thanks so much for the update. We look forward to more updates going forward.
Dan Mooney: Excellent, Jim. Thank you.