The impact of COVID-19 has shaken the entire world. Irrespective of the economic challenges the outbreak of COVID-19 has exposed the health and wellbeing of farmers and workers to extreme vulnerability. The farming community continues to remain on the frontline ensuring food security for the population while they battle against lost income, increased poverty, and lack of access to healthcare facilities. While the challenges continue to mount, the Network of Asia and Pacific Producers (NAPP) team remain active on the ground with the implementation of various Relief and Resilience activities to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of the Fairtrade farmers and workers in the Asia and Pacific Region.
In Sri Lanka to address the short-term needs of the Fairtrade tea estates, a Project under ‘COVID-19 Fairtrade Emergency Initiative’ is funded by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)in cooperation with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). Under the Project, several Preventive and Relief activities are being implemented by Fairtrade International to ensure the safety of workers and management in Fairtrade Tea estates and Flower gardens in Sri Lanka.
The activities will be carried out in 3 phases for the distribution of i) protective gear and medical equipment; ii) stationery packs for children, and iii) dry ration food packs for workers and will cover 25 Fairtrade Plantations across Sri Lanka. The first phase i.e the ‘Distribution of Protective Gears and Medical Equipment’ was organised in Jan through the facilitation of Fairtrade NAPP. The activity covered 23 tea estates and 02 flower gardens benefitting 16,920 plantation workers.
A COVID-19 Prevention Task Force consisting of 25 to 30 men and women were formed as independent volunteer teams for each estate to prevent the spread of infection among the workers in the tea gardens and to distribute the medical essentials and protective gears which included thermal scanners, hazmat suits, face shields, gloves, safety boots, and KN 95 masks.
The Task Force of selected volunteers led by the NAPP Program Consultant were well trained by the Medical Officer of Health and Divisional Superintendent of Health. The Management Executives of the Estates, Divisional Public Government Officers, and officials from the Health departments were active participants in the event.
‘’On behalf of the Estate Management firstly, I take this opportunity to thank Fairtrade International for providing all the timely needed safety materials to our workers who work in the frontline and approach COVID-19 infected people. We have received face shields, safety boots, disinfectants, and hand sanitisers. This has ensured a safe to work environment for both our tea plantation and health workers’’ – T Gnanawander, Fairtrade Officer of Dickoya Estate
33920 Reusable 3 layers Cloth Mask and sanitiser bottles (100 ml each) were distributed to the workers. Each tea plantation workers were provided with 2 sets of Reusable cloth masks and a 100 ml Hand Sanitizer bottle. 10000 Junior Reusable 3 layers Cloth Mask were distributed to the children at the gardens.
52 cans of Multi-surface Disinfectant (each can of 5 litres) were distributed to the 25 estates to be applied in the common amenities in and around the tea estates to prevent the spread of COVID-19 19 infection in the gardens. Each Estate received 1, 2 or 3 Cans of multi-surface disinfectant according to their no. of divisions / common amenities.
A total of 585 Reusable Micro guard Coverall Suit, PVC Safety Boots, and Medical Face Shield and 1170 no. of KN 95 masks and protective gloves were distributed to the Health Volunteers. Each health volunteer was provided with a reusable face shield, a pair of safety shoes, 2 nos’ of KN 95 mask, and 2 pairs of rubber-coated gloves. Each of the Health volunteer team was provided with 01 Infrared Forehead Thermal scanner. A total of 117 scanners were distributed.
Murali is one of the tea workers in the Dickoya Estate, Dickoya (Hatton Plantations PLC). He is also a volunteer at the COVID-19 Prevention Health Team and the Former NAPP Board Member – Worker Representative. He says-
‘’As plantation workers, we have suffered a lot due to the ongoing pandemic. While the COVID-19 infection spreads rapidly across the plantation, we struggle to help the infected victims. In the case of anyone falling sick in the estate, we fear to go near them, to help them, or to take them to hospitals or quarantine centres. We did not have proper protective clothing to ensure our safety. Today, an important event has taken place at our Dickoya Estate. Through the Fairtrade Relief Initiative, we were provided with fully equipped personal protective gear. We are now in a better position to help the COVID-19 patients without the constant fear of getting infected or spreading the virus. All the five divisions in the estate have also received face masks, hand sanitisers for the entire workforce. Our workers can now work safely in a protected environment. On behalf of the workers and the management of Dickoya Estate I sincerely extend our gratitude to Fairtrade, its partners, and the local liaison staff for facilitating this Project’’
A glimpse of the on-ground activity of Abbotsleigh Estate of Hatton Plantations Ltd.