If we have learned anything during the past few weeks, it’s how interconnected we are. Whether it’s noticing how difficult social distancing can be, or thinking of all the people who simply can’t stop working, coronavirus has taught us that we need each other. And now more than ever, we need to find ways to be solidary with one another and with the people who are putting their lives on the line to make sure the world makes it through this.
Humanity depends on solidarity and connectedness. It always has, and now we are getting clear signs of it. It’s astonishing to see how our lives depend on other people (people we don’t even know!) We depend on sanitation workers to keep our public spaces clean. We depend on doctors and nurses to treat our ills. We depend on farmers and other food industry workers to keep us fed and strong. And it is up to us to make sure that all those people, whose hard work we depend on, have everything they need to keep doing what they do in a safe, dignified way.
After a decade of working closely with small farmers, we have learned a lot about what they do, how they do it and, to some extent, what they need in order to do it. We know that they feed the world, one community at a time. We know that they keep agricultural traditions alive while embracing new technologies and practices. We know that they wake up at the break of day, that they work hard to keep supply chains active and mouths fed. They have always been heroes, and we are glad that more and more people are realizing it now. We want to focus on this global awakening and turn it into global action. We want more people to focus on small farmers and finding ways to support them.
As consumers, we can support them by rethinking where we buy what we need. Smallholder farmers and their families usually live day to day, which means they depend on an active local economy. When restaurants and markets are forced to shut down, farmers lose a big part of their business. But we can do something to help them recover their economic stability.
Some of us can’t afford to donate to organizations working directly with the crisis. But we can choose to buy our groceries and supplies from local producers. Instead of ordering from an international corporation, call your neighbourhood store, local market or restaurant and ask if they deliver. If you know any local farmers, go to them for your beans and greens. If you don’t, now is the time to ask around for them!
Lots of local farmer networks are emerging and farming cooperatives are finding ways to deliver products safely to our doors. Producers in Xochimilco,* for example, are looking to get together and sell in bulk so their produce doesn’t go to waste. Farmers depend on an active food supply chain just as much as we do.
Other producers are getting creative and aadding a twist to their activity: Liliana has been a Sistema.bio user since 2014, and in her family farm she raises cows, rabbits and sheep. The biogas her Sistema.bio 120 produces is used for the farm energy operations, including a small biogas engine. Before COVID-19 hit Mexico, she sold meat in Corredor de Chalco-Pirámides.** Her sales have considerably dropped since the lockdown, so she and her family decided to cook the meat and start a food delivery service. This new and improvised enterprise has proved very successful so far.
So next time you are about to order your groceries, why not search for a local farm or cooperative? Small actions such as these can have a huge impact on our local economies. Not only that, but they can have an impact on whether or not small producers make it through the crisis. The most important thing to remember is that, now more than ever, what we do has an impact on others.
* Xochimilco is one of the most important agricultural nodes inside Mexico City, with hundreds of producers who depend on their sales.
** Rural and periurban areas surrounding Mexico City