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Farming, COVID, and Farmers’ Mental Health - Episode 19

We begin this month’s episode with the latest from IFAD’s Associate Vice-President Donal Brown on how small-scale farmers are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

We then speak with different specialists to learn more about the various challenges to farmers’ mental health, especially during the pandemic.

Then, we'll hear about how GIS technology is helping people in Malawi make investments in the right place at the right time.

Plus, we have news from all around the world: from West Africa, on local “best husband” competitions; from Europe, on art and agriculture; and an update on reimbursable technical assistance. Finally, for the fourth installment of our mini-series on women leaders in the ACUA, we have news from Colombia.

Episode Contents

An interview with Donal Brown

Donal Brown, Associate Vice-President for IFAD

According to IFAD’s Associate Vice-President Donal Brown, when we first started to respond to the COVID crisis a year ago, we thought we’d be on top of it much more quickly. No one thought we’d be where we are now, with new waves sweeping through Africa, Asia and Latin America and a third wave threatening Europe.

Donal gives us the latest on how farmers are coping and what IFAD is doing to help farmers in need.

Dr David Rose on the pandemic’s effects on farmers’ mental health

Dr David Rose, Elizabeth Creak Associate Professor of Agricultural Innovation and Extension at the University of Reading

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on farmers’ mental health and resilience are the focus of a major new research project led by the University of Reading, along with the Universities of Exeter and Sheffield, in the UK.

The research team will work with farmers and organizations involved in supporting them to better understand how the spread of the coronavirus has affected agricultural workers, their mental health, and their resilience against this and other shocks.

We spoke with Dr David Rose, professor of agricultural innovation and extension at the University of Reading, who’s leading the project.

Dr Mahbub Hossain on mental health in the Global South

Dr Mahbub Hossain of Texas A&M University

The latest evidence suggests that, beyond its physical effects, COVID-19 is also causing an epidemic of mental illness.

But long before this new wave arrived, many farmers across the world were facing a host of psychosocial challenges.

Dr Mahbub Hossain has worked extensively on mental health issues within the Global South. He spoke with us about some of these pre-existing factors and the need to develop interventions that can promote better mental health, especially amid the pandemic.

Dr Neice Muller Xavier Faria on the link between pesticides and mental health

Dr Neice Muller Xavia Faria

Dr Neice Muller Xavier Faria has been studying the association between pesticide use and the mental health of small-scale farmers in Brazil for more than 20 years.

In a few of her studies, she was able to observe a clear correlation between farmers who developed minor psychiatric disorders and those who suffered pesticide poisoning, among other factors.

Our reporter Keyla Carvalho sat down with her to discuss her findings and some of the science behind the connection.

Innovative uses for satellite imagery, with Athur Mabiso

Athur Mabiso, Senior Economist for IFAD’s Research and Impact Assessment Division

In 2019, IFAD hosted an Innovation Challenge among its staff with the goal of generating ideas that would help the agency “deliver better results, more quickly.” Ultimately, nine new projects were funded.

One of them is the Geo Monitoring & Evaluation project, or GeoM&E for short. It leverages Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology and Earth Information Systems (such as satellite imagery) to help IFAD obtain more accurate and useful information about geographical locations around the world. The data it generates have supported development projects during the design and implementation phases, and can even help evaluate their effects years after the project has closed.

Our reporter Irshad Khan spoke with Athur Mabiso, senior economist for IFAD’s Research and Impact Assessment Division, to learn more. 

Caroline Montpetit on the Best Husband Contest

Caroline Montpetit, Farm Radio’s Regional Program Manager for West Africa

Many people swear their significant other is one of the best around. But what if there was a way to find out for certain? The Best Husband Contest in Burkina Faso, created by Farm Radio International, did exactly that.

Farm Radio International came up with the contest as a way to deliver information in local languages in a more fun and engaging format. The focus wasn’t on judging and comparing individual husbands, but rather on raising awareness about the crucial role of men in taking care of their family’s health.

Our reporter Keyla Carvalho caught up with Caroline Montpetit, Farm Radio’s Regional Program Manager for West Africa, to get the details on one such event held in the community of Koudougou.

Dan Roosegaarde on the connections between art and agriculture

Daan Roosegaarde, artist and founder of Studio Roosegaarde

Daan Roosegaarde is a Dutch artist and the founder of Studio Roosegaarde, dedicated to creating projects that unite art and the natural world.

His newest installation, GROW, features lights embedded into a field to create a beautiful glowing landscape. The lights are carefully calibrated to certain hues that promote plant growth and reduce the need for pesticides.

Daan spoke with our reporter Keyla Carvalho about how the idea for the project came to be, and about the broader connections between agriculture and art.

Daan’s GROW installation

An update on IFAD’s RTA Programme with Marco Marzano De Marinis

Marco Marzano de Marinis, Lead Global Technical Specialist, IFAD’s Sustainable Production, Markets and Institutions Division

Many countries face a wide range of technical challenges in terms of modernizing their agricultural sector. IFAD's Reimbursable Technical Assistance (RTA) programme helps countries meet these challenges.

Marco Marzano de Marinis, IFAD’s Lead Global Technical Specialist for the Sustainable Production, Markets and Institutions Division, told us more about the programme.

ACUA Women Leaders: Dorina Hernandez

Dorina Hernandez, community leader for Palenque de San Basilio

The ACUA Foundation, an organization that supports Afro-descendant communities throughout Latin America, regularly works with IFAD to develop and support projects across the continent.

This month, our reporter Keyla Carvalho spoke with Dorina Hernandez, a leader of the Afro-descendant community in Colombia, about Palenque de San Basilio, the first free African town in the Americas. The town was also declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.

Next month, for the fifth and final part of our ACUA Women Leaders mini-series, we'll talk about climate change and how it’s affecting the lives of Afro-descendant peoples in rural communities across Colombia.

Summing Up

Thanks to our producer Francesco Manetti; our reporters Rosie Gonzalez, Keyla Carvalho, Irshad Khan, and Margaret Goring; and everyone else who’s worked on this programme. But most of all, thanks to you for listening to this episode of Farms. Food. Future., brought to you by the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Remember, we want to hear from you – what you think about our stories and issues discussed, and who you want us to be talking to – so please get in touch with us at podcasts@ifad.org.

Send us your voice or text messages to that address and we’ll be happy to play you out in the next show.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast via your favourite podcast platform – and please rate us!

From Brian Thomson and the team here at IFAD – thanks for listening.