Salma Akhter, a member of an agriculture cooperative in northern Bangladesh, has been extremely busy the past four months – since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she has been volunteering to run a ‘virtual call center’ in her sub-district, helping connect rural farmers with suppliers and buyers. Farmer members call her on her mobile phone to place orders for seeds and fertilizer and to sell their produce including rice, vegetables, milk and fish.
Single-person rickshaw vans transport the aggregated goods, and payments are made through mobile transfers, substantially reducing the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh impacted food supply chains, especially in the informal and unorganized sector in rural areas. The lockdown impacted food accessibility, agriculture input supplies, jobs and farmer income. With disrupted local food supply chains and limited storage capacity, farmers became desperate to sell their produce, especially perishables.