Forest and Farm Facility


COVID-19 has strong impacts on rural producers. Forest and farm producer organizations (FFPOs) are providing immediate emergency responses – particularly in the areas of information sharing and crisis service provision. FFPOs are offering grounded solutions for resilience in building back better secure landscape-based production systems and introducing innovative solutions that will be necessary in the post-COVID-19 world.

Major impacts on forest and farm producer organizations

Short term demographic changes

As poor wage laborers are laid off in cities, urban to rural migration gathers pace. This puts more immediate stress on resources, food security and family livelihoods. It increases the rural risk of exposure to COVID-19. Often the main employers in rural areas, FFPOs are helping to engage these returnees and meet their needs. The crisis provides an opportunity for them to re-imagine how youth and other returnees might use their urban market knowledge to develop new opportunities to stay on in productive roles.

Food insecurity due to supply chain interruptions

With wide spread enforcement of social distancing, reduced mobility is leading to disruption between traders and buyers. Reports come in of temporary closures of farmers’ markets. This presents a challenge to food security – both rural and urban. Farmers are struggling to transport and sell their products. Food is spoiling, and perishable forest products wasted. Prices are increasing. This puts additional pressure on poor urban households. 

Higher pressure on biodiversity and the environment

Access to charcoal markets is also restricted. People in both urban and peri-urban areas are being pushed into harvesting wood themselves. This adds pressure on the few forest reserves that remain close to urban areas. More land may also be cleared for subsistence food production as traditional distribution processes struggle. Some communities have started using plastics and other non-conventional sources of fuel, leading to air pollution and posing health hazards.  

Increased poverty and reduced well-being

Lost income and shortages of food are most severely felt by those already at risk. This is true particularly for women, the landless, and daily wage workers. But it is also true for producers with very small holdings and those not linked to FFPOs or strong social and economic networks. On top of these challenges, many producers are already highly vulnerable to climate and market related risks. Many small or economically unstable FFPOs have little resilience to cope with the current scale of disruption. 

Increased burden on women and gender-based violence

Women are particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. They make up most of the care workers (paid and unpaid). This leads to greater risk of infection. They are also usually the ones in the household going to markets to buy food and other items of daily need. This increases their exposure even further. Women face aggravated work burdens in cooking and care for children and the elderly too. More children and other family members are staying at home than usual (due to school closure, home office regulations or loss of work and general restriction of movements). Additionally, men staying at home or returning have increased sexual and gender-based violence. Movement restrictions make it more difficult for affected women to report these incidents or seek help. 

Special challenges for indigenous communities

Many indigenous peoples’ groups are confronted with particularly acute challenges. They live in remote areas, often with basic healthcare provision and communication. Lockdown, which is in place currently in many countries, further isolates indigenous communities by limiting their access to food and medicine. This makes them vulnerable and defenseless if the coronavirus spreads to their territories. Monitoring and support are rarely tracking their situations in official reports due to the difficulty in communication. Additionally, relevant information on prevention and containment is often not available in local languages. 

Emergency responses 

FFPOs improve coordination between partners

FFPOs and their enterprises play a vital role in local economies as employers, suppliers and as buyers of broad baskets of products. They provide trusted links for people, goods and services between rural and urban areas. Some FFPOs have stepped in to help national social protection programmes for food supply, with distribution of food supplies.

FFPOs enhance flows of information 

FFPOs play an essential role in communication and information that reaches the local level. FFPOs are already serving as primary communication channels about COVID -19 health, hygiene practices in many instances. In the area of digital media and virtual communication, the COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to support FFPOs to deliver information and services with new tools for e-commerce, finance and technical extension. 

FFPOs establish links with social protection programmes

As social protection programmes of the government are highly stretched due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FFPOs can improve access to programmes and help vulnerable groups on the ground. For example, some FFPOs have been providing premises for quarantine and self-isolation. FFPOs have also been offering support for unpaid care by women and addressing the specific constraints for workers in the informal sector (of which many are women too). They are helping people returning to rural communities because of economic downturns and reduced employment opportunities in urban areas. 

FFPO enhance gender equality and maintain social integrity

FFPOs are a key player in local democratic processes. They often have particular constitutions that target gender equality and the inclusion of vulnerable groups (e.g. youth and ethnic minorities). In addition, many reach out to people living with disabilities and other vulnerable groups including the homeless and the aged. It is groups such as these that are particularly vulnerable in the COVID 19 crisis. FFPOs can help to maintain the public spirit of social inclusion in response and resilience planning and programmes.

Best practices

FFF partners FAO, IUCN, IIED and AgriCord are helping FFPOs in documenting and sharing best practices and facilitating the implementation of locally adapted measures for:

Immediate emergency responses:

  • Engaging youth in COVID-19 communication campaigns and response strategies to help affected groups.
  • Directly involving women in all planning and implementation of COVID-19 responses and specific support to women and girls that includes assisting women in leadership. 
  • E-commerce and delivery mechanisms that allow FFPOs to trade and develop new market opportunity for FFPOs that cope with social distancing.
  • Health protection methods that still allow aggregating, logistics, distribution of basket of products from FFPOs.
  • Special focus on rural poor and other vulnerable groups, in productive activities for landless families and ensuring access to seeds for both production and self-consumption.

Building back better for the long term: 

  • Generate rural employment opportunities whilst stimulating livelihood diversification for more resilience.
  • Sensitization and information campaigns on the value of collective action and the important role of FFPOs for resilience and recovery for/from shocks and crises, such as this pandemic.
  • Designing local strategies and management plans for the revival and strengthening of rural production and livelihoods, enhancing resilience and social protection systems.
  • Assessing and improving public policies regarding the strengthening of FFPOs and their inclusion in relevant coordination mechanisms.
  • Scaling up initiatives and work on enhancing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in FFPOs and beyond.

 Special support to FFPOs

FFPOs are suppliers in the food value chain and consumers in the local markets. All ongoing efforts to channel existing funds and programmes to FFPOs should be accelerated. An additional benefit is that FFPOs can facilitate the identification of the most vulnerable families to ensure targeted support.

As most COVID-19 measures are taken by national governments, it is crucial that national level FFPOs are involved in policy and decision making with national governments.

Women groups and female members of FFPOs are crucial for targeted community responses. Women need to be fully integrated in all decision-making related to COVID-19 and beyond, coupled with facilitating more women in leadership positions.

Most FFPOs already have active youth programmes and the international community can help them develop specific programmes for youth employment in rural areas in the wake of COVID-19.