As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Cycle Connect team is offering weekly updates in the form of “Last Mile Dispatches in 3, 2, 1”, a weekly blog post that highlights the 3 most telling data points, the 2 most important decisions, and the #1 most informative story that we are hearing through our work on the ground in Uganda during COVID-19. Tune in every Friday.

April 13th – 17th, 2020: Digest in 3, 2, 1

The 3 most telling DATA POINTS:

>50% – farmers surveyed who requested an input loan. Over the last two weeks, we prioritized data collection among our clients to hear from them about their needs. We interviewed more than 1,500. Half of our stakeholders described pain points in planting and tilling due to the movement and market restrictions. Many reported eating their seeds that they were saving to plant since they’re struggling with buying food (see our number one most informative story, below).  

1 – week till planting should start. Planting needs to start in the next week in order to ensure a proper harvest. With the lockdown until at least mid-May, farmers need to be able to plant on time to ensure their families and communities stay food secure. 

109 – bicycles donated to health centers. Last week we reported surveying over 60 health centers, most of whom reported transport as an issue. We rapidly responded and donated over one hundred bicycles to ensure that nurses and other healthcare workers can show up on time to work to treat patients. 

The 2 most important DECISIONS: 

1.Launch a newly designed ag-input loan ASAP – Based on our rapid data collection, the results pointed toward an overwhelming need to provide an input loan. This is not something that Cycle Connect previously offered, but we believe it’s crucial to adapt to the adjusted demand among our clients and the challenges they’re facing. Our team designed a seed loan, specifically for maize and soybeans given the nutritional aspects and market sale viabilities. Our operations team analyzed which clients previously planted either soybean and/or maize. They then narrowed it down further by repayment history to build an extensive list. 

2.Switch gears – we now understand the need and who in our system would be a potential candidate. Our field officers are now switching gears from collecting data to understand the problem to now surveying which of the short-listed clients are interested. They’ll work to move clients as quickly as possible along to an ultimate seed disbursement, ideally in the next 7-10 days. It’s a daunting task that requires rapid movement, but something we’re committed to. 

The #1 most informative STORY:

Smallholder Farmers, like Acio Harriet, are eating their seed supply in order to put food on the table today but are jeopardizing their food security for the coming season. 

Acio Harriet is a client of Cycle Connect with a bicycle loan. This week Auma Naiwa, a Cycle Connect field officer, called Harriet as part of our newly formed support call center in response to COVID-19.  

Harriet shared how this pandemic is bringing new challenges for her and her family. Harriet uses her bicycle to run a retail business–which involves her riding to the nearest town center to buy goods to sell in her village. With markets closed due to government regulations, she closed her business. The only money she is currently bringing in is from renting out her bicycle to neighbors who are in need of access to transport due to the severe public transportation ban.

Despite shutdowns, Harriet knows that food must still be on the table for her family: Her family began eating their stocked seeds, previously saved for the planting season starting urgently soon (the end of April). With their seed stock now depleted, Harriet is in need of new seeds in order to keep her family food secure through the continued lockdown and beyond. 

Harriet is not alone–our team heard similar stories from hundreds of rural families that we are reaching through our call center– more than half reported this. Rural communities are eating through their seeds in an attempt to put food on the table today but jeopardizing their food security for the coming months. Farmers are urgently in need of seeds on financing and delivery to maintain food security at this critical time. The cry from our clients was heard by our team, moving us to action. We are responding through the development of a new seed loan to equip farmers with the tools and resources they need to be resilient amidst COVID-19.