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How did Semilla Nueva grow from 5,000 to nearly 10,000 families during the pandemic?

A family in Alta Verapaz prepares F3 tortillas from the seeds donated in our COVID-19 Relief Program.

A little over a year ago, when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Guatemala, the Guatemalan Government reacted swiftly, implementing mask-mandates, curfews, and travel bans, prohibiting group gatherings—and forcing Semilla Nueva to adapt its approach to both comply with these measures and respond to their devastating economic consequences. Despite these obstacles, in the middle of the pandemic, Semilla Nueva grew from 5,000 families in 2019 to nearly 10,000 families in 2020.

How did we do it?

We called and visited farmers one-on-one: Historically, in-person farmer field days were at the forefront of our seed promotion strategy, but given the COVID-19 restrictions, the sales team turned to individual outreach, calling more than 900 farmers, and visiting over a thousand farmers in their homes to promote our F3 biofortified seed.

We launched radio ads and sent text messages: Semilla Nueva’s marketing team also stepped up to the challenge, designing a new series of radio ads and SMS messages focused on seed promotion and agricultural practices trainings. In the months of September through November, we sent 15,925 messages to 2,815 farmers.

We donated seed to the most vulnerable farmers: The government-mandated restrictions also took a considerable economic toll on the most vulnerable Guatemalans. For day laborers no longer allowed to work enough hours to put food on their tables, fears of catching COVID-19 were overshadowed by fears of going hungry. Therefore, in May 2020, Semilla Nueva launched its COVID Relief Program, donating non-commercial seed to two farming associations. Through this collaboration, we reached nearly two thousand of the most disadvantaged farmers, helping them to feed their families and increase their incomes.

Despite constantly adapting our strategies to comply with the current COVID-19 restrictions, we still nearly met our original 2020 sales targets and nearly doubled sales from 2019. Now, in addition to continuing the above mentioned efforts, we are launching smaller, social-distanced field days to reach more farmers than ever before. In 2021, we aim to reach anywhere from 11,000 to 14,000 families.

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