Information campaign helps rural communities protect themselves against coronavirus
In the most remote areas of Angola, the wave of coronavirus infections that has swept the world has not yet reached deep into the villages and farming communities. A new joint campaign launched by FAO with Angola's Ministry of Agriculture aims to keep it that way.
In a village in Malanje Province, in the country's northern central region, a group of women farmers wear face masks and stand at least a metre apart. They're taking part in a Farmer Field Schools training session on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Angola's Institute of Agrarian Development (IDA) is a key partner in the information campaign, including IDA agricultural extension workers who are reaching farmers in their fields and villages.
There are similar scenes in other parts of the country too. In a field of cabbages in Huambo Province, an agricultural extension service worker stands a safe distance from a group of women farmers and speaks to them about the dangers of this new virus and how they can protect themselves.
"The farmers are optimistic in overcoming this pandemic. They understand that they are crucial in this crisis, so they want to be healthy to keep working and producing food for Angolan families," said Celestino Vonjila Essuvo, FAO Farmer Field Schools Coordinator in Huambo Province.
The messages being shared with family farmers focus on the importance of hand washing with soap and water and maintaining physical distance to avoid spreading the virus. They are being shared in posters and other material in Portuguese and several local languages and aim to reach vulnerable rural women in particular.
"Being able to speak with people in their own language is so important in being understood and getting the safety message heard," states Hugo Manuel who works for FAO's team based in Huíla Province in the country's south, where drought pushed vulnerable farming families deeper into food insecurity in the last 12 months.
Across Africa, FAO is tapping into existing networks of farmer field schools, extension workers, women's discussion groups and community veterinary health networks to share COVID-19 health and safety messages. It is part of the broad effort to protect food security and livelihoods in the face of the virus.
In Angola, Farmer Field Schools are also training farmers on how to produce handmade soap to both meet the new local demand because of the virus and to provide a new income source.
FAO Representative in Angola, Gherda Barreto, launched the information campaign in the capital, Luanda, with the Ministry of Agriculture.
"This virus is putting lives and livelihoods at risk," she said. "We are aiming to reach farming families not only to protect the most vulnerable communities from this disease, but also to keep family farming and food supply chains active."
FAO's focus in Angola is to strengthen livelihoods and food security. This is especially important in times of crisis, like this one. Though Angola has so far recorded only a small number of positive COVID-19 cases, it is paramount that the disease is kept at bay, both for the health of the population and to limit the impact that restrictions on movements and other preventive measures have on livelihoods. FAO, the Ministry of Agriculture and the World Health Organization's information campaign aims to reach 1 million rural families in Angola.