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24 April
COVID-19 Efforts (Zimbabwe) by Mayiwepi Jitti

The ITGA has focused its efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic in the areas and members which would be most exposed to the adverse effects of a health crisis. ITGA has been working directly with its members specifically in Zimbabwe. The next piece is a collection of recommendations by Mayiwepi Jitti, President of the Integrated Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU), which has been at the forefront of the prevention efforts against the coronavirus.

"It is with regret that we are now faced with the Covid-19 crisis internationally and we in the farming industry need to work together with our Ministry of health to combat this disease. Tobacco farmers are prepared to sell their tobacco in April. Most farmers are about 3 quarters way to finish curing and grading is in progress.

COVID-19 is going to negatively affect the tobacco farmers and marketing seriously because farmers do not have storage facilities to store their tobacco for longer periods and let alone the tobacco bales and security. Storing tobacco on farms will mean that farmers will have to buy fumigating chemicals and tents so that the tobacco is not affected by the tobacco moth which will be at a cost. Farmers will have to beef up security as thieving is going to rise. Keeping more workers will come at an extra cost as the workers would need extra protection and protective measures so as not to be contaminated by the virus whilst working. Extra sanitizers have to be readily accessible and available always.

On farms, we are encouraging farmers to wash hands with soap and water frequently and to report to the office for any sign of the virus so as to seek quick medical attention. We are installing running water at the entrance of the working place and their compound so as to wash hands more frequently. We use drums, plastic containers and already existing water points to provide running water. We are discouraging gatherings. I would like to encourage all Zimbabwean farmers to grade all their tobacco as fast as possible then keep a limited number of workers whilst the rest are sent back home for self-isolation.

When floors open farmers should not all travel to the auction floors and crowd the auction floors for this would be a sure recipe for disaster. Let's use a big truck in groups and send as many tobacco bales from a limited number of farmers as possible and assign only one trusted member of the family to be a representative at the auction floors to avoid overcrowding. I would like to encourage farmers to deposit all their income into a bank account then use electronic methods back home.

To all mothers please do not travel to the auction floors especially those who carry babies and young children to the auction floors for this disease is real and there are chances of contamination. I encourage those responsible for running auction floors to practice top hygiene and never allow farmers to sleep on the floors and avoid overcrowding. Serve farmers as soon as possible after selling their tobacco so that farmers spend as little time on the floors as possible. We are spreading the word through social media and talking to farmers to be aware of the dangers of this virus.

Washing hands alone will not prevent Covid-19. We need to work together to avoid contamination."