Developers of Nature-Based Climate Solutions Can Help Meet the COVID-19 Challenge

Will Sheldon

People who develop forest carbon projects work directly with the rural poor who are hardest hit by climate change. Here’s how Taking Root, a reforestation project developer in Latin America, is using its position on the front lines of the climate challenge to help people prepare for COVID-19.

8 April 2020 | For the first time in history the world is facing multiple, interconnected global crises. People have only just begun to come to terms with the climate crisis and its far-reaching implications, and now, due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, we are more fully realizing some the other risks we face from living in a globalized world.

These two crises are not independent of one another. COVID-19 originated from an animal source in Wuhan, China. Scientists have already highlighted the increased risk of new diseases spilling over from animals to humans as a result of human impacts on natural habitats. Given the highly contagious and serious health impacts of COVID-19, many organizations around the world are temporarily closing down or reducing their operations. However, we cannot afford to drop our response to the climate crisis. Given so many nature-based projects are inherently tied to on the ground activities which demand social interaction, is it possible we can responsibly tackle both the climate crisis and public health crisis at the same time?

Nursery work preparing for this season’s planting taken on the 18th March 2020 by Taking Root technician Rajkristha Lopez

The answer from Taking Root is emphatically yes. On Wednesday 18th March Nicaragua confirmed its first case of COVID-19. Taking Root’s primary concern during this public health crisis is to ensure the safety and health of our employees and the communities we work with. As of March 19th 2020 we will continue all our operations on the ground and are on track to complete our largest planting season to date. More importantly, as one of the largest outreach organizations in Nicaragua, we have begun using our daily activities to communicate and educate the rural communities we work with on COVID-19 and how they can stay safe and healthy.

Taking Root has over 45 staff on the ground in the Northwest of Nicaragua who spend much of their time visiting the thousands of farmers we work with to help them grow trees on their farms. These farmers are disconnected from public health information and services. Given their low incomes, physically intensive work, close home life settings and the fact that many are over the age of 50, they are extremely vulnerable to the potential impacts of a virus like COVID-19. We are implementing a number of policies so that our staff can stay safe, while using our position to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout rural communities in Nicaragua.

What policies are Taking Root putting in place at its Nicaragua offices?

  • All office-based workers who can are now working from home
  • Anyone who is sick has been told they must stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days
  • Field staff who normally plan their daily activities as a team in the office will now be doing so remotely through group phone calls
  • Office workers that provide essential services like paying farmers are maintaining at least two metres distance between one another
  • We are changing the way we run large group team meetings. For the foreseeable future we have:
    • Cancelled all large group meetings
    • Where possible, we are moving group meetings to Whatsapp which can be managed centrally from the office by a small number of people
  • We are putting up educational signage at the entrance of all of our offices to recommend best-practice such as regular hand-washing and social distancing.
  • We are ensuring alcohol wipes and sanitizer are on hand for regular use from anyone entering or working in the office

Are the Taking Root Nicaragua offices still open to external visitors?

Taking Root’s offices are visited regularly by farmers. We have moved the meeting point for any external visitors outside and will be practicing social distancing, maintaining 2 metres apart between all staff and visitors.

How is Taking Root helping farmers and their families prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Taking Root staff will continue to visit farmers. However, they will:

  • travel solo to avoid close contact with other staff members
  • maintain a minimum of two metres distance from farmers and avoid all physical contact
  • use farmer visits as an opportunity to discuss with farmers and provide them and their families with information explaining the risks of COVID-19 and what they can do to keep safe as well as Taking Root’s policies for the foreseeable future

We will continue to use the latest public health advice to inform our policies and procedures. In the meantime, we will do all we can to serve and support our staff and the farmers we work with.

Will Sheldon is the Commercial Director of Taking Root, an organization working to align the needs of forests and farmers around the world. This story first appeared on the organization’s blog. You can read the original here.

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