Tropenbos International and COVID-19

Tropenbos International and COVID-19

the Netherlands - 14 April, 2020

Tropenbos International is committed to reducing the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus in every way possible. We seek to protect the health and safety of the staff of our network members and partner organizations, and the local and indigenous communities we work with. Most of these communities are poor and located in remote areas, making them extra vulnerable, because of limited access to adequate healthcare. To help stop the spread of the virus, we have drastically adapted our activities and approaches.

Our work normally involves frequent meetings with local and indigenous communities, to discuss the development and implementation of various forest- and landscape-related projects and programmes, and to ensure that their views are fully considered and taken on board. From the very beginning of the crisis, our members and partners have been aware of the potential risks of spreading the virus to these communities and stopped organizing meetings and field trips.

As the current situation means face-to-face meetings are no longer possible, Tropenbos International and its partners have adopted alternative and sometimes innovative approaches and arrangements. Part of the work has shifted to in-depth desk reviews, and we geared up our use of multiple online platforms, as well as the telephone — ways of communicating that keep everyone safe while having a lower carbon footprint. These approaches will also help us revisit how we can work more sustainably in the future.

COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, which means it was transmitted from animals to people. The World Health Organization has hypothesized that deforestation is a driver of zoonotic diseases, by increasing the likelihood of humans coming into contact with wild animals that carry a virus. The emergence of COVID-19, in turn, may have negative effects on deforestation. Some of our partners fear that the crisis may trigger opportunistic behaviour by certain actors who are looking to clear more lands. This underlines the need for integrated approaches that tackle deforestation, poverty, health and food security simultaneously.

In the coming weeks and months, we plan to investigate the effects of COVID-19 on deforestation, to learn as much as we can from this crisis. At the same time, we will continue our collaborative work towards a future in which forest landscapes are used sustainably for the benefit of local people and the global community.