This is a difficult moment for the world. None of us could have imagined the scale and extent of health, economic, and psychological suffering taking place. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who have been directly affected. All of our lives have become upended so suddenly, and it’s tough not knowing what news tomorrow will bring.

We’re grateful to our board and existing donors who have expressed their full support in helping us navigate these uncertain times.

I also want to thank each member of our frontline teams in Ethiopia and India who has kept in touch with extension agents and farmers by whatever means possible. I know working from home isn’t what many of us signed up for, but the farming communities that we serve have even greater needs as a result of this crisis. We wish we could be together to strategize and support them directly in the field.

I appreciate everyone staying at home to take care of themselves and their families, to slow the spread of the virus, and move the society forward as quickly as possible. That is why we, along with our partners, had to make the tough but clear decision to pause the community video screenings that have been the hallmark of our work.

I know that it isn’t easy to be isolated, and for the first couple of days, I’d admit that I wasn’t sure what I should be doing. I took that opportunity to pause and reflect, and now like many of you, I feel grateful about all that we’re pursuing in our work while also enjoying more time with my family and trying to juggle new household responsibilities.

This crisis has shown how interconnected our world has become. We’re seeing how much our health is tied to others. We’re realizing how much we depend on small-scale farmers for our food supply. And we’re appreciating how much we need each other as a team for comfort and strength.

I am confident that we will look back at this time and take pride in our response. I have been inspired by how quickly each of our staff has mobilized to address the challenge at hand. We’re repurposing existing videos to share awareness and prevention measures for the disease over mobile and social media channels, helping farmers link with markets in the midst of lockdowns, facilitating virtual trainings of frontline workers to stand ready when conditions allow them to be back in the field and have many more initiatives under development.

I’m also encouraged by the hard work that other organizations are doing to rapidly increase COVID-19 testing and vaccine development, which is crucial to resolving this threat over the next year or so. In the meantime, the partners and communities that we serve continue to call on us; and we’re trying to bring together the best in our grounded insights and spirit of innovation to develop ways to not just address the present situation but to create lasting change for the future. That is the mandate of the task forces that we have constituted in Ethiopia and India.

The new approaches that we develop and the ways that we interact with one another during this time will define us for years to come. We had begun shifting our focus from solely extending information to farmers, and instead, enabling farmers to make their own choices to transform their own livelihoods with FarmStack. I believe this is ultimately how we will build resilience for both farmers and ourselves alike not just for COVID-19, but other health, market and weather shocks too.

Farmer and farm profile data can be incredibly powerful to both inform messages that can be shared to meet farmers’ immediate agricultural and health needs. And building on the COCO data that we’ve historically collected, forward-looking data on farmers’ cropping plans for the major agricultural seasons coming up in India and Ethiopia have the potential to connect farmers with personalized extension content, input dealers, credit and insurance facilities, and offtake markets across the value chain.

The situation continues to evolve very quickly and there likely will be more challenging days ahead of us but we are mapping our risks, building contingency scenarios, and pursuing business development opportunities in this new world.

We remain committed to our mission to sustainably increase farmers’ incomes in a nutrition-sensitive, climate-resilient, and inclusive manner. Many experiments we try will fail, but we will ultimately succeed as we always have: starting from the community, being honest about what works and what doesn’t, having each other’s backs, and catalyzing impact at scale.
I wish you and your loved ones continued safety and good health.

Rikin

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