I shared the following letter with the Hello Tractor team last week and was blown away by their response and overwhelming support. Their selflessness in this time of crisis was nothing short of inspiring. Now, I am requesting the same of our supply-chain partners, customers, public sector partners, and technology partners.
The list below represents what we have identified as immediate needs. This will be rolled up into a more comprehensive strategy that I have attached below. The strategy will evolve as more of our partners come on board:
- UN FAO recommended insecticides (for desert locust),
- Ground and aerial sprayers (for insecticide application),
- Tractors (for land preparation and insecticide spraying),
- Subject matter experts on insect control,
- Organized farmer networks projected to have production disrupted by desert locust or labor shortages/COVID-19,
- Public and private sector organizations working on these issues across the last mile
We have already begun working with partners such as AGRA (VBAs) & The World Bank (Million Farmer Initiative) to mobilize farmers needing tractors and/or sprayers. We will continue to scale up this strategy, specifically in East Africa (for locust), and our broader footprint for COVID-19. We welcome you to join us.
I was speaking with my mother yesterday about the stress we are all currently facing, challenged by the crushing weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. In her wisdom, she shared a story from Wangari Maathai that I would like to share with you. The story is as follows:
There once was a great fire that led all of the animals to flee to escape the flames. All of the animals fled: the tiny dik-dik and the great water buffalo, the herds of wildebeest and elephants, the zebras, giraffes, hippos and rhinos, flamingos, tortoises, lizards, and frogs… all fled for their lives. When they reached a far enough distance, they looked back and cried out in unison, “our homes are on fire and burning to the ground! There is nothing we can do about it!” All of the animals cried out, that is, except the tiny hummingbird. She looked at the fire that raged in the distance and she looked at the stream that flowed nearby. She flew with her tiny wings to the stream and gathered a single drop of water in her tiny beak, flew over the fire and dropped that tiny drop of water, flew back to the stream, and gathered yet another drop. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth each time dropping just a single drop of water until the other creatures watching her could stand it no longer! “You are a foolish bird, dropping only a single drop of water at a time, what do you think you can accomplish?” And as she continued on task and in her flight she answered them…. “I may be small and my beak may be tiny and I may only be able to drop a single drop of water at a time, but I will do the best I can!”
Our world is on fire. The flames of COVID-19 and the desert locust infestations are taking lives and creating disruptions to local food supplies that threaten to destabilize our region. While these challenges seem too large to do anything about, I think we, like the hummingbird, can do our part. I’ve attached a draft response strategy that takes the best of what we do and applies that to supporting farmers in our regions that desperately need the help. I will be sharing the same with our partners, customers, and public sector allies to build a coalition of support.
As a company, we are not immune to the financial toll of COVID-19. Like most companies, we will be forced to make difficult decisions around cutting costs to survive this crisis and continue our work. I will be personally reaching out to you throughout the course of today to discuss this in greater detail. To curb the financial strain on the company, the senior management team has preemptively agreed, as of last month, to forgo our salaries for the next 3 to 6 months. Funds will be redirected towards our efforts to address COVID-19 and desert locust impact mitigation. I realize this is a sacrifice many of you are not in a position to make and most of you know me well enough to know that I would do anything to protect you and your families from these difficult decisions that we are being forced into.
As an extension of my very own family, I consider each of you an integral part of my life, and I have always felt blessed to have walked with you along this journey. In the months ahead, we will require sacrifice and focused effort to ensure this journey continues for the benefit of each other, yes, but also for our farmers. In these defining moments, our relationships with each other, and our resolve will be tested. I have full faith in each of you that we will not only prevail from this crisis but come out stronger and better.
Very truly yours,