Our Response to COVID-19
This page will be regularly updated with official statements related to COVID-19.
12th of June
COVID-19 has challenged our organization in innumerable ways; we temporarily halted our in-person training model, the farmers we serve have limited access to WASH and medical care and so were made more vulnerable, and our fundraising efforts (along with every other nonprofit) have been in a holding pattern as we watch the global economy respond to the pandemic. But we’re proud to say that we’ve met those challenges head-on and they’ve forced us to be more creative and efficient than ever – keeping the health and safety of farmers and staff at the forefront. We believe Trees for the Future (TREES) and our approach will come out the other side of this pandemic more effective and scalable than ever – reaching more farmers and helping accelerate sustainability for our planet.
Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we at TREES have taken every step to ensure the health and safety of our staff and the farmers we serve. Our 170+ headquarters and field staff have been working from home for nearly two months and we have successfully served farmers using phones, smartphones, and Apps to provide regular and consistent communication and virtual training.
As of the 12th of June, each of the countries we work in has begun to slowly reopen and loosen restrictions under public health guidelines related to COVID-19 for limited essential travel. While keeping the health and safety of both staff and beneficiaries top of mind, TREES is taking steps to allow field staff to reconvene in small groups for the distribution of materials, checking on nursery development, and in-person training with farmers. All offices will remain closed to full-time office work (limited work is permitted with safe distancing). Variations exist in each country in accordance with country guidelines, travel restrictions, and the varying stages of Forest Garden implementation. Technicians are limiting field visits to only what is necessary to ensure project implementation and farmer success.
While we are allowing field staff and farmers to begin meeting in person, we are still requiring they follow health and safety guidelines; farmers and staff will remain six feet apart at all times, farmers and staff will wear face masks when interacting with one another (TREES is providing farmers with face masks), hand washing and sanitary practices will continue to remain a priority, and staff will continue leading by example in best practices.
Reopening plans according to each country’s guidelines:
Cameroon has had the highest number of cases out of the countries we serve, but took early action. Field technicians are traveling a limited amount to visit lead farmers and provide guidance on outplanting. Outplanting is beginning this month (June).
Of all the countries where we work, Kenya remains the most diligent against COVID-19. Gatherings (even for small trainings) and travel between counties are prohibited. However, the government has lifted inner-county travel. Our lead technicians will begin traveling to newly registered farmers to sign MOUs, but will continue checking in with existing farmers using remote telephone communications. Assistant technicians will rotate working at the training center, conducting practice trainings through the end of June. All seeds and materials are being ordered for distribution in July.
Tanzania has had limited closures since the beginning, and the country is no longer reporting COVID-19 cases, which is cause for concern. Technicians are beginning to travel again to meet with farmers to sign MOUs, but will continue checking in with existing farmers using remote telephone communications.
Uganda has experienced the lowest number of cases out of all the countries where we work. Because of testing and clear restrictions, Uganda has been able to move toward a return to normal. TREES staff, while still following safety guidelines, have been able to recommence training farmers in nursery development in small groups. We’ve also been able to deliver biodegradable tree sacs and seeds to the field. There are 2,100 new farmers in our Uganda programs and we look forward to getting to work with them in person.
Field Technicians are now traveling within their districts in the Fatick and Kaffrine Regions to check on farmers’ tree nurseries and provide any support or guidance to farmers so that outplanting later this summer is a success. Our Training and Partner coordinators will travel to central project areas in the Kaffrine region conduct refresher trainings in small groups with less experienced staff as well as lead farmers to provide increased guidance and build capacity ahead of the August outplanting.
United States, Headquarters
Headquarters is located in Silver Spring, Maryland and our HQ staff is dispersed throughout the greater DC area; DC, Maryland, and Virginia. As Maryland begins to reopen to businesses, staff based in DC and Northern Virginia are still experiencing separate restrictions. For this reason, TREES HQ staff will continue working from home through July.
We will continue to keep our community updated as we adapt to the changing circumstances of this global pandemic. Check back here for ongoing updates, find the latest staff update here, and email us at email@example.com with any questions about our response.
The dedication of our staff, donors, and the farmers we serve throughout this crisis has been profound. Thank you for your continued support.
– Your Trees for the Future Team
7th of May
Trees for the Future (TREES) continues to follow leading global health standards in our response to the Coronavirus and is keeping staff and farming families’ health top of mind. We have extended COVID-19 protocol through the end of May, with an understanding that the restrictions will be extended if necessary.
“TREES staff and farmers are a community of problem solvers and are meeting the challenges of COVID-19 with perseverance and innovative solutions,” says Executive Director John Leary. “Although these are trying times, these necessary changes to our programs have proven our adaptability. As we think about the future of our work, we can expect to see some of these changes carry over into our projects long term, ultimately helping us to reach more people.”
We are encouraging field staff to focus on Protection, Remote Communications, and Coordinated Assistance.
Protecting staff and farmers remains a top priority at TREES. All staff have been provided with detailed instructions on best practices during COVID-19, including handwashing, limiting trips outside their homes, and social distancing.
All headquarters and field staff continue to work from home and communicate daily as the team orchestrates distance and virtual training for its thousands of program participants spread across six countries.
Field staff are in regular phone contact with farmers to provide guidance, answer questions, and check on their well being. In projects where Lead Farmers have smartphones, WhatsApp Groups have been created with Technicians and Lead Farmers to increase ease of communication. TREES developed a new ‘Remote Communications Recording’ tool within their existing monitoring and evaluation reporting system to document all calls, concerns, and communications with farmers. This helps the organization to track and aggregate information, provide advice on key concerns expressed across project areas, and develop target responses to needs in real time. Farmers can easily report issues to staff and staff can provide prompt feedback.
To provide the necessary training to farmers from a distance, TREES staff are currently producing short videos in local languages to describe key processes in nursery development including: seed preparation, soil preparation, nursery care, etc. For example, this is especially an urgent need in Senegal, as farmers are preparing for nursery season, a critical period in Forest Garden establishment and success. These videos are being sent to Lead Farmers via WhatsApp to use as references to guide.
One of the most pressing challenges program farmers face is accessing markets during COVID because of closures, restrictions, and evolving circumstances. TREES field staff are working to help farmers identify buyers while headquarters accelerates plans to provide farmers with educational materials on economics and marketing.
Read the latest update shared with staff here. As we continue to adapt, we will keep our community updated. Check back here for our ongoing response and direct any questions about the organization’s response to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last but not least, we are grateful for our dedicated staff for their diligence amidst this crisis. And we continue to be amazed by incredible supporters who continue to give during this difficult time. Thank you.
– Your Trees for the Future Team
6th of April
Trees for the Future (TREES) continues to stress the seriousness of COVID-19 with our staff and farming communities. As the threat of the virus spreads into communities far and wide, Trees for the Future (TREES) made the decision last week to stop all in-person, face-to-face field activities until further notice. All offices will also remain closed for the time being.
TREES has cut all non-essential spending to ensure that both farmers and staff are provided for. All staff will continue receiving their salary as they work on achieving organizational goals remotely. Staff will continue to track farmer progress and provide training and guidance via phone and video training. Field staff have been given additional phone and wifi credits to account for the increases in telecommunications during this time.
Farmers in our program will receive virtual support from technicians and lead farmers. Rural farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are among the most vulnerable populations when it comes to health and economic crises. Farmers enrolled in the Forest Garden Program have the ability to grow a diverse array of nutritional produce for themselves and their families. The program has also provided them with the ability to save money for times like these. While this virus will undoubtedly have ripple effects into every regional economy, we will continue to work with these farmers to ensure their resilience.
TREES staff continue to quickly produce short in-country videos in local languages to describe key processes, such as seed preparation, soil preparation, nursery care, etc. These videos will be sent to Lead Farmers via WhatsApp to use as references to guide other farmers in small groups. TREES will resume standard in-person training with farmers as soon as it is safe.
We are grateful for our dedicated staff for their hard work and perseverance amidst this crisis. We are also thankful to our incredible supporters who continue to give during this time.
– Your Trees for the Future Team
23rd of March
Trees for the Future continues to take all necessary action around the novel Coronavirus to protect our staff and the farmers we serve. Following the leading health and safety guidelines from the CDC, WHO, and the countries where we operate, we are adapting the way we work.
Our small headquarters staff in the United States will continue to work remotely until the government and health officials lift current safety recommendations and mandates.
Currently, the outbreak has remained low (compared to other countries) across our project locations but we know this will change. In Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda the recommendations and mandates vary from country to country. TREES has opted to follow the strictest set of guidelines across all program countries, including limiting gatherings to no more than five people. All field offices received a detailed list of mandatory adaptations this week. You can read more about these directions in our latest memo available in English and French here.
Training and education are a big part of what we do at Trees for the Future. In addition to the social distancing and small group guidelines for our field offices and trainings, our staff is producing short in-country videos in local languages to describe specific processes that farmers would typically be learning in person: seed preparation, soil preparation, nursery care, etc. These videos are being sent to lead farmers to use as references during small group training.
Trees for the Future continues to take this ever-evolving issue very seriously for the safety of our team and the farmers we serve. We are emphasizing the importance of ongoing communication as well as attention and adherence to in-country mandates.
We will continue to adjust as needed and will provide updates here.
– Your Trees for the Future Team
13th of March – Initial statement to the TREES community
We can’t help but think of each and every one of you as COVID-19 seems to be affecting all of us on some level.
We are closely monitoring the pandemic and are continuing to keep the safety of Forest Garden farmers, our staff, our partners, and our community top of mind as we take any and all action necessary.
As members of the Trees for the Future family, you have always shown us how connected we are and that we are our best when we come together for the greater good. In such a trying time, it is important to remember these principles, especially as we have the ability to act on them in a digital space.
Just as you have helped care for the trees we plant and the families we are work with, we know you will continue to share this type of goodness with others. That’s who you’ve shown us you are, and that’s powerful.
We will continue to share updates on Trees for the Future and the impact you’re making for so many people and our environment. We hope it will continue to signify positivity on your feeds and in your inboxes, the innate goodness of humanity, how we can come together to make great change, and the light that you shine for so many people around the world.
Stay tuned for more updates as we adapt to pressing circumstances.
As always, we wish you good health and safety.
– Your Trees for the Future Team