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Olam International steps in with data to help farmers and communities fight COVID-19 impact

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THUR, AUG 27 2020-theG&BJournal– Olam International is stepping in with data to help thousands of small-scale farmers become more resilient to shocks, including price drops, pests, and climate change impacts.

Olam team is currently mapping the recent COVID-19 survey (conducted in July) findings with the AtSource programme data to identify hotspots where farmers may be most vulnerable. The AtSource insights platform (AtSource.io) is a tool in the company’s approach to help customers and partners stay resilient.

The survey undertaken by Olam in July of 2,400 of smallholder farmers growing cocoa, coffee, sesame, cotton and other crops in Africa and Indonesia, revealed that more than half were experiencing shortages in basic food and nutrition due to movement restrictions, food price increases and insufficient stocks at home. Ability to afford food was impacted with 70% of those farmers surveyed saying they had less income than usual in the prior four months.

While spread of the coronavirus in Africa seems to be gradual, according to the International Rescue Committee, limitations in data collection and shortages in testing infrastructure mean that the numbers may be underreported.

In response to the data limitation and to drive change across supply chains, over 3,500 Olam enumerators collect impact data from farmers and communities in AtSource sustainability programmes which is made visible to customers via the company’s online dashboard. This includes specific metrics on food security and access to clean water and sanitation.

Together with multiple other metrics, customers can then see the overall social and environmental footprint for every step of their product’s journey, from farm to factory. Such insights enable collaboration with Olam on improvement programmes.

“Some AtSource Plus programmes already include nutrition data but we are now ramping up focus on this critical area across the business,” says Julie Greene, leading Olam’s social strategy. She noted that in recent years, there has been some progress towards helping thousands of small-scale farmers become more resilient to shocks.

“But we must make sure this is not derailed. We need to redouble our public and private collaboration to encourage crop and income diversification, access to finance, promotion of health and human rights, and preservation of the environment,” she said.

In response to COVID-19, Olam has already committed US$5.7 million in financial and in-kind donations for relief and essential healthcare for farmers and rural communities.

Over the next 6 months, the company said it will be mobilising partnerships to provide 40,000 vulnerable households with food and health kits, support food crop production, crop diversification and storage capacity of 40,000 households, through distribution of food crop inputs and support for livestock, credit for inputs and labour, training and materials for crop storage and pest management, communicate essential nutrition and health information to 500,000 households, improve access to health for 40,000 households by extending basic health services to rural areas and  construction of water points and latrines.

Co-founder and Group CEO Sunny Verghese said these immediate relief efforts must also be accompanied by approaches that address the underlying challenges that left many communities so exposed.

‘’We must collaborate across landscapes to scale regenerative agriculture; foster health, nutrition and human rights; facilitate access to farmer services, especially those related to post-harvest handling and storage; and promote market mechanisms for fair prices and sustainable practices. The time for action is now,” he added.

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