Social distancing, protective masks and gloves, and buckets of enthusiasm: the things keeping our Eritrean teams safe, motivated, and committed to change during COVID
In Eritrea, the spread of coronavirus has been minimal compared with other parts of the world. Restrictions were quickly put in place to keep infection rates low and now Eritrea is beginning a tentative return to normality. Our staff have continued working throughout lockdown, and are now undertaking important field visits to the farmers and communities participating in our projects.
Afewerki Solomon, Programme Coordinator in Eritrea, tells us how the team is adapting to these changes:
In field visits to smallholder farmers in Anseba, Debub and Maekel, precautions are being taken to minimise any chance of contamination. We keep our distance and cover our mouths and hands with mask and gloves, continuously washing our hands and using alcohol and sanitizers. In the beginning, when meeting with the farmers, it felt strange not to shake hands and do the shoulder pump to greet them (a traditional greeting in Eritrea) but then you get used to it and learn to keep your distance to be safe.
It was important that we continued our field visits as we needed to select sites for our improved seed multiplication projects as planting season approaches. It was also vital that we met with new farmers for our programmes awareness campaign that would prepare them for their planting season with training on the importance of soil and water conservation.
We managed to bring together village administrators, development committees and village representatives, alongside teams from EIDP and NARI to conduct these visits safely and successfully. These new farmers are now adequately trained on the correct methods for planting as they grow long cycles of maize and millet crops during this rainy season and continue planting sorghum, wheat, pearl millet and other crops from the middle of June onwards.
We also had a field visit to Zoba Debub, to inspect and monitor potato seed stores in the southern part of the country. This too was successful in ensuring our projects remain on track while adhering to safe and preventative coronavirus precautions.
“Even with the stress of the pandemic, looking at the farmers’ eagerness to work hard on their farm keeps me motivated and encouraged to work with the farmers”, Afewerki says.
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