Peruvian farmers do not stop

Food hero Luis Sinche continues to harvest bananas despite the COVID-19 pandemic

Luis Sinche, a banana Farmer in Peru, continues to harvest his crop, providing nearby towns with fresh produce during the time of the pandemic. @FAO/Salomón Valencia


The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped many businesses and closed most production, but this isn’t true for the farmers and food producers who need to keep working so that the world can continue to eat. Their vital contribution to the pandemic response cannot be overlooked. 

In this crisis, eating healthy with fresh fruits and vegetables is even more important and for this we rely on the farmers worldwide who are continuing to harvest and produce food for us. They are our Food Heroes, braving the risks of the virus, to bring us the food on which we depend.

Luis Alberto Sinche is exactly that, a food hero and one of the many farmers who is working daily to ensure that his compatriots have healthy and nutritious food despite the COVID-19 pandemic. His agro-ecological farm – located in Mariscal Castilla in central Perú– specializes in bananas, which he plants next to his avocado and coffee trees. 

Mariscal Castilla is a small town in the jungle side of the central Andes, 350 kilometres from the country’s capital, Lima. Nonetheless, it has been hit by the pandemic. Farmers now need to obtain special permits to leave their homes and must cross several road controls to bring their crops into town. Even so, Luis continues to harvest his bananas, coffee beans and avocados to sell to nearby municipalities.

“We are complying with all measures adopted by the government. We don’t go out in groups. We only leave our homes to work on the farm; we respect the curfew,” describes Luis.

As a smallholder farmer whose livelihood depends on his harvest, Luis must also keep working in order to sustain his family. He has three daughters and a son. The youngest of his daughters is still attending university, and the fruits from his banana trees pay, not just for food and healthcare for his entire familiy, but also for her studies.

From his time with FAO’s Farmer Field School, Luis learned the agro-ecological methods he now uses on his farm. This includes wrapping bananas in bio-degradable bags to protect them against insects, pests and diseases. ©FAO/Salomón Valencia

In 2019, FAO helped family farmers like Luis to become suppliers for Peru’s national school feeding programme, Qali Warma, and its local counterpart. Luis’s banana crop was bought by the local government and sent to schools in the surrounding areas. 

“Last year – with support from FAO– I started working with the local government to supply my products to school feeding programmes. It was a success. I sold all my banana crop at a fair price.”

The Qali Warma school feeding programme is still functioning in some areas with very high poverty rates, delivering food while maintaining physical distancing measures. However, the scope of the programme has been temporarily cut back because of the crisis.

Luis had planned for his entire banana crop to be dedicated to several small schools this year. Now because many establishments are closed, he has had to find other alternatives. He is instead selling his products to his neighbours and to shops that are close to his farm.

His long-term plan is to continue working for the school meals programme and hopefully expand to supply supermarkets.

FAO is continuing to support the farmers of central Peru to further agroecology, good hygiene practices and improved processing to guarantee the quality and safety of the food they produce. ©FAO/Salomón Valencia

Agroecological practices and food safety 

Luis works with other farmers in his area to foster the use of sustainable agro-ecological and organic practices which he learnt from FAO’s Farmer Field School. 

“My bananas never touch the ground. I wash my hands and wear a facemask. I guard my bananas with bio-degradable bags that protects them against insects, pests and diseases and guarantees that they are safe and of high quality.”

He does not use pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers on his farm. “I use biological control measures that I prepare myself, using my own banana trees. I use discarded bananas and other residues to make compost and natural compounds to fumigate the plants.”

Luis says that because of these practices many of the sanitary measures needed for the COVID-19 pandemic were already in practice in his farm and in his home.

While COVID-19 is affecting everyone’s day-to-day lives, some things don’t change. People still need to eat to keep healthy. Farmers still need to earn money. That is why FAO is working to ensure that its programmes continue to support those who are food insecure or whose livelihoods are at risk, because of the pandemic or other causes that also haven’t stopped, such as conflict and climate change.

FAO is continuing to support the farmers and farmer organizations of the central region of Peru to further agroecology, maintain good hygiene practices during the harvest and improve processing practices to guarantee the quality and safety of the food they produce.

While the world is focused on combatting one issue, there are the many others we cannot ignore. FAO’s goal is still a healthy, food secure, sustainable world and we are continuing our work, despite circumstances, to make this a reality.

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2. Zero hunger, 8. Decent work and economic growth, 15. Life on land