From Iceland — Icelanders Offer Sick Farmers A Helping Hand

Icelanders Offer Sick Farmers A Helping Hand

Published March 31, 2020

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Almost 100 Icelanders have volunteered to help out farmers affected by COVID-19, Visir reports. Volunteers will provide manual labour to farmers who fall ill from the novel coronavirus, to help ensure the country’s agricultural sector does not grind to a halt as the outbreak worsens.

The programme is an initiative organised by the Farmers’ Association of Iceland (BÍ). According to the project manager, Guðbjörg Jónsdóttir, there are currently 6 farmers who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Vestur-Húnvatnssýsla district in Northwest Iceland, all of whom have been able to maintain their farms with the help of family, friends and local workers. The number of infected farmers is likely to rise as the virus continues to spread and the volunteers will doubtlessly be needed in the future.

Volunteering at a farm might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering ways to help the nation battle COVID-19, but agricultural volunteers are important to maintaining food security in Iceland. The BÍ is particularly concerned about supporting farmers during lambing season, which starts this month. According to data from 2017, Iceland is home to 475,893 sheep, outnumbering the human population by over 100,000, so lots of help will be required if farmers become infected this spring.

Although Iceland’s agricultural sector has been in decline in recent decades, farming is still an important part of the Icelandic economy. Last year the total production value of the sector was 65 billion ISK (461 million USD). It is hoped that volunteer efforts will limit the economic damage of COVID-19 on the Icelandic farming industry.

Guðbjörg thanked volunteers, telling Visir she was, “quite touched that the country is thinking of farmers and is ready to help.”

As hundreds lose their jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors, this could be a way for the newly unemployed to fill their time. If you fancy lending a hand to an Icelandic farmer send an email to afleysing@bondi.is.

As ever, those looking for more information or advice should go to the Icelandic Government’s excellent COVID-19 help page.

Tune into our daily COVID-Cast for a deeper dive into the day’s developments.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

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