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  • Writer's pictureJon Ferguson

The impact of Covid-19 in 2021

The Ecotierra Impact Report for 2021 provides an extensive review of the holistic approach developed to meet our organizational goals. To explore the impact report more in-depth, we are dedicating the weekly ElevaFinca communications to selections of the report. This week we are focusing on the impact of Covid-19 in 2021 through an interview with Karina Santana, the Director of Operations and Co-Founder of Ecotierra.

Karina Santana talks about Ecotierra experience in the second year of Covid-19.

- How has the pandemic affected Ecotierra services and operations?

We never imagined the difficulties Covid-19 would pose for us in achieving our goals in the field. In 2021, constant setbacks have greatly de-motivated our team, coops, and producers. The quarantine and other restrictions reduced our actions in the field. Cooperatives focused their efforts on storing coffee to maintain sales and meet their contracts. This made it difficult for producers to be open and willing to continue the field activities that were planned or already started.

The lack of manpower has not only affected the coffee harvest but has also reduced the planting of coffee and tree varieties that make up the agroforestry systems offered by Ecotierra. Despite this, we continued our technical assistance visits to maintain the links created with the producers while respecting the biosafety protocols. The availability of inputs needed for production, such as seeds, certified fertilizers, and small tools, was and still is limited. Keeping these essentials at affordable prices for smallholders has been a constant struggle. All these new challenges have reduced the demand for the installation of new agroforestry systems, at a time when the planet needs this type of initiative to continue the fight against climate change and land degradation.

Continuing construction of the coffee processing plant during the pandemic was also more challenging. Due to restrictions on the number of people who could work in the same space, construction required more shifts with more rotating personnel. At the same time, importing machinery took twice as long, delaying its installation.

All of this, coupled with the economic crisis experienced by some cooperatives, painted a discouraging scenario. However, we have overcome this ordeal, and we are getting back on track with our development goals.

*Mónica Acosta Julca, Pataz Association

- Organizations have been forced to change their work habits, how has this impacted Ecotierra? Do you think some of these new habits are worth keeping?

For more than 15 years, we have favored working remotely and telecommuting to keep on with our fieldwork, which has allowed us to maintain contact with producers even in the middle of the pandemic. Thus, we will continue this practice.

Our traceability system, Minka™, which compiles the progress of activities in the field, is proof of our adaptability. This tool combined with the efforts of our field technicians and zone managers has been beneficial during this difficult period.

Similarly, our sales team in charge of ElevaFinca has been successful in maintaining good communication between coffee buyers and cooperatives at the outset through the adoption of web-based communication tools. We will continue to develop and adopt new ways to maintain the field connected with our operations and clients around the world.

- How have your operations progressed in the second year of the pandemic and what are your next actions?

The progress has been slow but steady. In 2022, to catch up on our goals and targets, we will adopt new field strategies and we will implement new tools to optimize the ongoing monitoring of our activities. We are always looking for REAL RESULTS, a key matter for our company.

During the pandemic, a diagnosis was carried out on the governance of our allied cooperatives. The results allowed us to know the current needs of producers in three areas: social, environmental, and economic. This will help us establish development strategies that will positively influence our activities from 2022.

In addition, we deem it necessary to create long-term partnerships with organizations that participate in the same value chains to provide technical assistance and strengthen the governance and financial education of producers to better manage their farms and productivity and ensure their resilience to crises such as Covid-19.

We create and intervene in projects and operations over periods of 10 to 15 years, which is why those partnerships have become more important to achieving our goals and succeeding in our fight against land degradation and climate change, which affects producers, local businesses and consumers.

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