Hope and Resilience During COVID-19: Part 1
For over 50 years, TechnoServe has helped hardworking women and men in the developing world gain the skills, connections, and confidence to create self-sustaining businesses and build a path out of poverty. In 2020, we asked a few of these farmers and entrepreneurs to share how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their lives and how they are coping with its effects.
For many women and men in the developing world, it was already difficult to put food on the table for their families, send their children to school, and effectively run their farms and businesses. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As a result, extreme poverty — defined as living off of less than $1.90 per day — is expected to rise in 2020 for the first time in over 20 years.
But in a year characterized by uncertainty, we have also seen resilience, determination, and hope. We asked TechnoServe clients — small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs throughout the developing world — to share how the pandemic has transformed their lives and how they are coping with its effects.
Read a few of their stories below, then read part two.
My mental and emotional health was affected.”
— Gloribee (“Glori”) Castillo Ayala, age 49, Maricao, Puerto Rico
Gloribee (“Glori”) Castillo Ayala and Carmelo (“Tripa”) Echevarría Nazario grow coffee and other crops on their small piece of land in Maricao, Puerto Rico. On a typical day, the couple would wake up before sunrise and work on the farm until 1 p.m., tirelessly weeding, sowing, harvesting, and fertilizing their crops. Then, after a full day in the fields, they would return home to do the housework and other odd jobs to earn extra money. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Puerto Rico earlier this year, everything changed.
“At first, nothing we harvested could be sold,” Tripa says. “I’ve also been unable to work as a tinsmith. When the shutdown happened, it was impossible to buy fertilizer and other materials needed to work the farm.”
To make matters worse, Glori had to have several operations on her kidneys during this time. “I can’t go to the farm now because of the surgeries,” she shares. “Even so, after one of the surgeries, I went to the coffee farm…that was my best therapy. I need that contact with nature and to be on the farm to feel better. To not be able to do it…My mental and emotional health was affected a lot.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, finances have been particularly tight for Glori and Tripa. Glori’s medical expenses, combined with an initial loss of income due to the closure of markets and other restrictions, left them worried about covering costs.
However, despite the challenges they have faced this year, Glori and Tripa are optimistic about the future. “TechnoServe has been a great support to us, not only during this time of the pandemic, but since it began offering the [coffee] training,” Glori says. “What motivates me is Zuly [our TechnoServe farmer trainer] and Tripa. Zuly always appears with positive words and gives us encouragement and strength. Tripa is my faithful life partner. He is with me in every battle, fighting by my side.”
“My domestic duties increased a lot.”
— Angélica Novela, age 46, Maputo, Mozambique
Angélica Novela lives with her husband and four children in Maputo, Mozambique. Six years ago, she decided to open a small grocery store in her neighborhood to increase her family’s income and pay for her children’s school fees.
“I spend most of my days taking care of my business and looking after my younger children,” Angélica shares. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, my domestic duties increased a lot.”
In addition to her increased household and childcare responsibilities, Angélica has faced challenges with her business. “The increase in prices from suppliers consequently affected product sale prices,” she says. “My lack of customers and the reduction of activity hours due to government restrictions contributed to a drop in my daily sales.” Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Angélica sold $533 per month on average. After the onset of the crisis, her sales initially dropped to $333 per month.
“The support of [TechnoServe’s] Business Women Connect program has meant a lot to me,” Angélica says. “What brings me hope and optimism at this moment is knowing that I am not alone. I still count on the support of the program and my family, and I see more and more customers visiting my business lately.”