Covid-19: Protect Rural Workers in the Cotton Harvest

In the midst of the pandemic, Solidaridad mobilized its partners to deliver protection kits to day laborers working in the harvest in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Faced with the adverse scenario, the kits will help workers to ensure minimum safety measures during harvest. Photo: Alberto Oliveira / Solidaridad

The Covid-19 pandemic has been adding challenges for the safety of workers in rural areas, especially for those employed in the 2019/2020 harvest. This is the case of the cotton producers of our project “Weaving Value”, carried out by Solidaridad in the Brazilian semi-arid region. To ensure that the harvest follows the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) 750 personal protection kits were acquired urgently to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The kits, which include gloves, mask, lunch box and thermos, boots and personal hygiene items (bottle of water and liquid soap), were delivered to 750 hired laborers for the harvest period, between April and June. The area where they are working extends over 500 hectares in the Catuti region, in the north of Minas Gerais. Since most of the producers in this region lack machinery, the harvest is done manually.

"Those who can stay at home, do so. We, who cannot because we work the fields, have to take care of ourselves,” said producer José Rodrigues de Souza. For him, receiving the kits was important to continue working protected. 

If you go to work, it has to be distanced, and with articles like gloves and face protection masks. I believe we now have all that’s needed to do things well, because the only remedy at hand today is prevention.” -José Rodrigues de Souza

Eldi Cardoso Moraes and Adelino Lopes Martins also celebrate the initiative. "Delivering these kits to cotton workers is important because it involves more protection," he says. Eldi concluded that she now feels safer to face the harvest.

The face protection mask worn by José Rodrigues de Souza works as a physical barrier between workers. Photo: Alberto Oliveira / Solidaridad

The initiative has the support of the Catuti Rural Producers Cooperative (Coopercat), which is responsible for delivering the kits and training rural workers in their correct use. In turn, Coopercat receives the support of the Minas Cotton Producers’ Association (Amipa) and the Development Fund for Cotton Cultivation of the State of Minas Gerais (Algominas), through the Incentive Program for Cotton Production of Minas Gerais (Proalminas).

For the Manager of Solidad Brazil, Rodrigo Castro, this action recognizes the contribution that producers continue to make during the pandemic.

“The safety of workers is a priority for Solidaridad. And as a result of the concern raised about the risks of exposure to the new Coronavirus, we are promoting this action in alliance with these associations,” he stated.

To prevent the spread of the virus, health authorities are asking workers not to share containers. So the kits include lunch boxes and thermoses. Photo: Alberto Oliveira / Solidaridad Brasil

The “Weaving Value” project, with the support of the Laudes Foundation, has been working since 2016 in the production of sustainable cotton by means of good agricultural practices and the use of supplementary drip irrigation. The objective is to guarantee BCI certification, to grant a more sustainable future to family farmers in Minas Gerais and southwest Bahia. The project assists more than 500 producers and seeks to strengthen local cooperatives.