With the current evolving situation as regards the outbreak of the coronavirus, farmers have been faced with questions on how to stay healthy while protecting their fans and ensuring food security. This also includes their concerns on how to keep their crops, livestock and businesses safe and protected from the unprecedented crisis.
In a crucial time as this, staying informed of relevant and updated information is vital in ensuring that agribusinesses come out stronger during and after the pandemic.
For this reason, our first online training session that held on Wednesday, 8th of April, was a discussion on the biosecurity measures to take while protecting our agribusinesses. It was indeed a highly educational session. But before we go into the details, we would like to introduce our facilitator.
Facilitator: Olusola Sowemimo, Founder of Ope Farms
Olusola Sowewimo is a farmer and a passionate advocate for organic agriculture. The founder of Ope Farms, a certified organic farm enterprise, is a trained lawyer, experienced human resource personnel consultant, trainer, certified executive and etiquette coach. She was awarded “The Farmer of the Year 2019” by Ecological Organic Agriculture.
With a law career spanning over thirty-four years, she has worked in a few companies and gathered experiences in many capacities including UTC Nigeria Ltd, Olusola Sowemimo & Co., Nigeria LNG Limited and Seyi Sowemimo & Co. Her professional background includes but not limited to:
- Certified Mediator and Lawyer with the Law Firm, Seyi Sowemimo and Co.
- Consultant at Queenelle Consulting
- Public Speaker and Faculty Member School of Eloquence
- Business Coach, Etiquette Practitioner of Minding Manners, UK
- Member Association of Organic Agriculture for Nigeria (NOAN), Slow foods and many others.
- Board member VH-Span (Vegetable, Herbs and Species Producers Association of Nigeria)
- Associate Member, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD, UK)
- Fellow IAMN (Institute of Agribusiness Management of Nigeria)
- Host Farm for WWOOF.
- Attendee at Global Gap training, DEFRA training, practical sessions and recently completed Agribusiness management program at LBS (AgMp -11)
She is an active participant at many local and international conferences. She was sponsored to attend four organic conferences in Senegal 2018 and funded by international organization/INOFO/ Beekeeping conference in Abuja.
She is looking forward to presenting a paper at the Organic World Conference (OWC) 2020 in France later this year.
Here is the extract of the training.
COVID-19 and the Agribusiness
Agriculture, both upstream and downstream, is essential for a safe and reliable food supply for Nigeria. Right now, the food security of Nigeria may be threatened if farmers are not encouraged to produce. All over the world, governments are encouraging producers and processors to carry on. What then counts as an “essential business” in Agriculture?
In the US, essential businesses for a safe and accessible food supply include farms, greenhouses and vegetable plants, orchards, pest management services, feed mills and Agri supply businesses. This also includes pet food manufacturers and distributors, agriculture equipment sales and services, animal feed and supply distribution networks.
Additionally, the transportation systems from farm to retail, food and meat processors and manufacturers, veterinary services and supplies, as well as distribution and transportation system from processors and manufacturers to retailers. Even retailers including grocery stores and farmers markets, grocery delivery services, laboratories, and inspectors that ensure food safety are essential businesses in agriculture.
This shows how important food is to the world. So we have a huge responsibility to ourselves and to others to provide food. In performing this task, we must secure our farms and places of production.
I’m going to share from my experience, that is what we have done at Ope Farms which seems to be working so far. This includes;
Educating Farmworkers about COVID-19
Most of the class of farmworker or staff in agribusinesses in Nigeria have a low level of education. Also, members of the farm community still believe that contracting the coronavirus is a myth or an ailment of the rich. Therefore, it is important for the workers to be educated on COVID-19, breaking this down completely.
This requires a lot of effort from farm owners and leaders as they share the details on current statistics and emphasize the importance of workers adhering to social distancing.
Escalation of Sick Workers
Another thing to ensure during this pandemic is that if somebody should complain of mere headaches or stomach pains, they should please escalate. This is primarily because those of us who farm directly know that our workers are very knowledgeable in indigenous medicine when it comes to their health. So normally, they would not escalate except the situation is very bad. We should enforce that no matter how the situation is, they should escalate if they are not feeling well.
We all know what it is like to be constrained and feel isolated, but we have to encourage social distancing. Farmworkers must reduce their going and coming in and minimize their mixing with other people.
This should be a part of every farm culture. In compliance to global health agencies, handwashing stations should be installed on the farm for workers and our visitors. Also, there should be demonstrations on the right way of washing hands. We have to ensure that biosecurity is not just for now because of the pandemic, but part of our standard operating procedure. Even as farm founder and supervisor, we must do the right thing so that our staff knows the right thing to do and endeavour to do them.
Personal hygiene is fundamental and so you must provide what is needed to maintain it. Also, it is important to follow up in both the principle and the practice. Oftentimes, people fail in the principle. Let the health of your staff be of importance to you, take care of them.
Other Biosecurity Measures include;
- Appointing one person to go and come instead of a different person going out at different times.
- Avoid unauthorized visitors in this period
- Storage of all farm inputs is very important. Put staff in charge of putting away and storage of farm input.
- The farm entrance should have a foot dip where the tyres of cars and motorbikes can get sanitized. Ensure you have bleach and antiseptic on the farm
- Getting the buy-in of all workers to the plans set by the business owner.
Business Continuity Plans
The big lesson from COVID-19 is having a “Continuity of Business Plan” or “Business Continuity Plan” which is essential to keep our operations running smoothly in case of any disruption.
In drawing up a “Continuity of Business Plan” you should identify all the critical aspects of all your operation. This may include the following;
- Get ID Cards for your workers that commute back and forth in supplies and delivery of produce. Let it have an expiration date.
- Take stock of your business continuity plans. For instance, plan for what you need for the next month or 6 weeks, such as manure, fuel, seeds, feeds etc. Anticipate and plan against lockdown.
- Follow through with your planting schedule.
- Plan are those things that should be ready while the lockdown is e.g harvesting and distribution to consumers for sale.
- Have a website for your agribusiness and/or join a virtual market group to market your products online.
- Have an economics background for your business.
Question: “Thank you for the excellent presentation. Ma, what kind of chemical can be used for foot dip in a poultry and piggery farm?” – Okowojukwu Elizabeth Oyindu
Response: “As a certified organic farm, we use salt and water. There may be other options. we change every morning. Let me add that apart from the dip, we have two sets of shoes. There is a set for inside the Pen. So after dipping, the staff changes to the pair for the pen.
Question: “Thank you ma, please could you recommend some plants we could use to secure the boundaries of our farm?”- AK
Response: My Cucumber Magnate, some use teak, some use fruit trees and those who have grazing issues have to use Bougainvillea. I shall link you with someone who will advise further.
Question: “My staff is not too educated but had learned on the job. My question is how do I curtail the traffic on my farm, as most of my customers are farmers who use my facilities to produce cassava. In there I have a poultry and fish pond? Pls advice”- Idris Salamat
Response: “I’m glad to know your staff are learning on the job. For Customers who use your Facility for cassava production, could you develop a Rosta so it’s not every day that they all come? Could you also fence off your poultry with anything you can afford? It’s important that your poultry is not exposed to different people too often as well as your fish pond.”
Question: “Thank you ma, and a well-delivered seminar. My question is regarding farm attendants especially in this era of the COVID-19. I have over the years found out that farm attendants are majorly the cause of serious havoc to farmers in ALL areas. Ever since I have adopted that I will not keep an attendant for more than 6 months, I have achieved a better result. Can you please enlighten me on how to adopt an organic training schedule that will fit into my monthly schedule of recruiting?” – Kamaljeje
Response: “When it comes to workers, each farmer knows best what works for him or her. If your workers are only on 6 months contract, then you should compile what you do and develop into processes which you provide for each set of workers so you have a consistency in your production despite the fresh workers.”
Question: “How often should the foot bath be changed? Daily?” – Ofonime Essien
Response: We change daily.
Question: “The COVID-19 Stimulus palliatives and stimulus packages for food-related industries are very welcome in. What challenges would small farms face if we want to leverage on it to expand our farms even when we did not incur any loses but are expanding to guarantee food?” – Gas Plant Industry
Response: I believe that getting the market for your expansion is critical and it is possible. Food is always in demand if we key into the right market.
Question: “With respect to sanitizing farm tools after work, please what would you advise to add to water to clean our tools used on the farm?” – Ak
Response: “We just use water and sometimes soap if necessary. There may be other options that have worked for others though.”