Fighting Hunger
with Hand Washing
The health of the food supply chain depends on the health of the people who contribute to it. That’s why sanitation measures have been a top priority. Starting with markets that serve as vital hubs for farmers, support teams are working to help smallholders stop the spread without stopping the food system. 
Farm worker washing hands

This story is an update from our COVID-19 and Smallholders news series.

Protecting the global food supply chain is a complex task even when everything is running smoothly.

With a global pandemic causing unprecedented disruptions, it’s another thing entirely. But in many cases, the smallest of actions can have the biggest impact in preventing the health crisis from becoming a food crisis.  


In developing countries, smallholder farmers are central to that effort. There are 550 million smallholders in the world, making up roughly 97% of all farmers globally. And they produce more than half of the calories consumed in the regions where they live. In Latin America, Africa, and Asia, smallholder farmers are the food system. Or at the very least, they’re the foundation. 

Smallholders in the world, making up roughly 97% of all farmers globally.

But farming works a little differently in these places than it does in more developed countries. While a farmer in Iowa might place an order for seed and see it arrive on pallets on an 18-wheeler, smallholders acquire the seeds, fertilizers, and crop protection solutions they need in a retail setting in, or near, their local village. Farmers will come from neighboring villages to a centralized store. Often, that store is a Better Life Farming center (BLF), an agri-input supplier and information hub operated by Bayer partnerships in developing countries.


Farming is a primary livelihood in these parts of the world, so these businesses are pretty heavily trafficked, making them just as critical as grocery stores are in the rest of the world. Safety measures need to be just as rigorous. Social distancing and quarantines have disrupted business operations, but farmers can’t afford to miss a growing season or skip inputs that keep their crops healthy. Keeping markets open and safe is crucial not only to the farmer, but to the food supply for entire regions.



Clean, Safe and Operational

Some prompt efforts to do just that are happening in BLF centers across India and Southeast Asia. It may sound too simple to be true, but the first step is equipping key locations with handwash stations. These facilities, along with clear instructions for social distancing, personal protective equipment for employees, and increased distance communications, have allowed the centers to remain open as farmers finish harvesting their Rabi (winter) crops and gear up for the Kharif planting season. 


In Indonesia, handwash stations at more than 230 BLF locations reach thousands of farmers per week and are supplementing a surprising disinfection method. In conjunction with local authorities, the BLF Alliance is conducting a weekly mass spray treatment to sanitize surfaces in and around Javan marketplaces as well as around farmers’ homes. 

Heart icon with a hand holding a sprout coming through it


In Indonesia, handwash stations at more than 230 BLF locations reach thousands of farmers per week.

Mohan Babu, Country Lead of Crop Science Indonesia and Malaysia said: "For the next phase, the program will be expanded to reach more villages and districts in Central Java and other areas of Indonesia. We hope to reach 3 million residents to enjoy the facilities of our initiative. Our aim is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and secure the food production for the people of Indonesia.” 


These enhanced hygiene and sanitization standards are a simple but fundamental part of preserving the health of smallholders and rural farming communities—as well as the health of food systems all over the world. 





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