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STARS Program Continues, Despite Covid-19

Our STARS program finds innovative ways to continue its activities despite covid-19. Here are some examples from Ethiopia, Senegal, Rwanda and Burkina Faso.

STARS Program Continues, Despite Covid-19

Rwanda

The STARS country teams are currently adapting their 2020 country plans, taking into account the new Covid-19 restrictions and realities. For example in Rwanda, to make sure that microfinance institutions (MFIs) can continue to provide loans to farmers thus managing risks arising such as shortage of liquidity, the STARS team is advocating towards large investors such as Rabobank Foundation, to loosen the repayment conditions for the MFIs. In value chain development, STARS is working in securing markets for the harvested maize and is planning activities around the marketing of rice in the next season.

Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, where STARS works with five MFIs and 17 producer organizations in the potatoes and malt barley value chains, the country team cannot move freely between cities and villages for an undetermined period. But no matter how difficult the current Covid-19 situation, STARS will support its partners to continue its activities using digital means, to ensure that farmers can still access the markets now that they are harvesting their crops and need access to the markets.

Senegal

Despite Covid-19 measures severely affecting the STARS program in Senegal, the team also mapped opportunities that could help STARS partners to mitigate some of the effects related to the Covid-19 semi-lockdown. In Access to Finance:  BCEAO (West Africa Central Bank) has put in place a mechanism that can refinance banks and MFIs at low interest rates. In addition, the Senegalese government is looking for a mechanism to facilitate access to refinancing through DER (Direction de l’Entreprenariat Rapide)  and FONGIP (National Guarantee Fund) to facilitate access to refinance for all MFIs.

STARS will closely work with its MFI partners to monitor the operationalization of their Covid-19 resiliency plans. Specific attention will be paid to liquidity availability to ensure that MFI continuously serve their clients and allow for economic recovery,  specifically in the agriculture sector.

In Value Chain Development: Due to the semi-lockdown, farmers noticed a lack of transportation and a closure of many public markets. Despite these restrictions, some producer organizations have been able to sell part of their products for exportation to Spain. But others like APOQ, FADEC SUD and APOQ are in a more difficult position. STARS has set up a strategy, together with market information platform Mlouma, to facilitate the marketing of the onions both nationally and internationally. 

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, where STARS works with six MFIs and 18 producer organizations in the shea and sesame value chains, the country team is using digital tools to strengthen the capacities of producer organizations. During a Google Hangouts meeting, STARS advised to strictly apply the COVID-19 restrictions to protect themselves and prevent contamination of their products. In addition, shea producer organizations would like to inform their members on hygiene and social distance measures when collecting shea nuts. Therefore, STARS Burkina Faso will develop a digital flyer that explains to farmers how they can collect nuts safely and hygienically.

In addition, sesame producer organizations expressed the need to continue the already planned training on best agricultural practices (especially during harvesting and post harvesting operations) for their member farmers to prepare themselves for the next planting season in July. But since movements are restricted, the STARS team is currently developing a training mechanism, using digital tools.

“The STARS team in Burkina Faso can’t physically leave our capital city Ouagadougou, since the whole country is in lockdown. So we link producer organizations to local capacity builders in every intervention area we work in. The local capacity builders will be coached through STARS, using video calls. Those local capacity builders will then train animators. Animators will then train farmers in small groups in their villages, while respecting the social distance rules,” Karim Zone, STARS Value Chain Advisor of ICCO Cooperation explains.

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