Wash Your Hands, Avoid Covid 19!

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Manes Wilson from Ntcheu District demonstrates handwashing techniques she learned through USAID-funded radio programming.
Photo Credit: Theodora Kachingwe, AgDIV for USAID


Farmers like Manes Wilson, a mother of eight from Malawi, are accustomed to receiving important information from the radio.

Like most farmers in Malawi, Manes does not have a television set, nor access to the Internet, and depends on radio as her primary source of vital information.

Since 2016, one program that Manes depends on is Tipindule ndi Ulimi - a weekly program developed by the USAID-funded Feed the Future Malawi Agricultural Diversification (AgDiv) activity. AgDiv provides information about how to improve production of soybeans, groundnuts (peanuts), and orange fleshed sweet potatoes. Now, AgDiv is also helping farmers like Manes stay safe from coronavirus – the disease which causes COVID-19.

Like many Malawians, Manes was worried about contracting the Coronavirus – particularly the impact on her children if she became sick and had to enter a government isolation facility – so she was grateful when she learned from the radio that washing hands and improving hygiene could help prevent the virus from spreading.

It wasn’t long before Manes took action. She gathered a large water bottle, a discarded plastic bag, two tree branches, and a piece of string, and set up a washing station with soap at her home to minimize  the spread of COVID-19. She taught her children about the importance of hand-washing and made sure that all family members and visitors are following the guidance she heard on the radio.

"I make sure that every individual follows the necessary hygienic practices.  That includes washing hands after toilet use and before meals - and I always make sure that everyone washes their hands with soap."

Manes is not the only individual in her community to set up a washing station. A visit to the community shows that almost four in every five households have set up washing stations, as a result of AgDiv’sthe COVID-19 radio messages.

Since late March, AgDiv has been leveraging its existing radio programs and network of listeners to increase awareness of the Coronavirus, providing information on how farmers can support prevention efforts within their households and communities alongside messages about nutrition, post-harvest handling, and market information. 

With help from Farm Radio Trust – a Malawian organization that provides extension and advisory services through radio and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) – each of AgDiv’s weekly radio programs now includes a two-minute segment dedicated to sanitation, hygiene, and COVID-19 awareness.

In Malawi – which reported its first case of COVID-19 on April 2 – people are adjusting how they work, live, interact, and do business.  With the livelihoods of more than 80 percent of the 18 million Malawians depending on a single annual harvest (April and May), people like Manes are balancing fear of the new virus with the need to carry on agricultural activities.

With COVID-19, they are now facing additional uncertainties about whether they will be able to sell their crops for good prices, how they will access markets, and whether food will be available all year round.

To address these challenges, AgDiv and Farm Radio Trust are now planning a new radio program that will complement Coronavirus prevention messages with information about technologies that reduce post-harvest loss and increase winter-crop productivity – helping farmers like Manes to increase the quantity of food they have available for household consumption, and expanding the domestic food supply at a time when border closures and export bans are an increasing threat to food security.