Hope and Resilience During COVID-19: Part 3
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 part three of this series, we ask 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.
A Glimpse of Hope, From the Darkness of Isolation
I felt isolated from my neighbors and relatives.”
— Biddika Sukumari, Andhra Pradesh, India
During the paddy planting season, Biddika Sukumari wakes up at 6 a.m., prepares a simple lunch, and heads to her fields to work. Married with three children, she would often look forward to gathering with friends and family after a long day on the farm.
How COVID-19 Drastically Impacts Quality of Life
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it changed long-familiar patterns for her community. Hope was the last thing she felt.
“The pandemic changed the village lifestyle,” Biddika shares. “The regular and casual meetings have decreased among villagers and relatives. Also, before the pandemic, we used to go to Kotturu [a nearby town] at least twice a week for groceries and agricultural inputs, but now we have restricted the movement to two times monthly.”
And when Biddika got sick earlier this year, she could not have any visitors for an extended period. “I felt isolated from my neighbors and relatives,” she recalls.
In addition to her health challenges, she struggled to grow and sell her crops. “On the farm this year, there was complete damage to the cashew crop. We got nothing from the cashew trees this year. The marketing of our turmeric was also delayed due to the pandemic.”
Yet despite the immense challenges Biddika has faced this year, she is seeing glimpses of hope. “TechnoServe staff shared market information [with us] and suggested we hold the turmeric stock for some more days and not to make distressed sales in the pandemic,” Biddika says. “For the coming season, we are hoping for a good yield in cashew and turmeric and hoping there will be no restrictions on marketing.”
Without a doubt, there has been a tremendous change in my life.”
— Denisse Acosta, age 39, Colina, Chile
Denisse Acosta lives just north of Santiago, Chile, with her partner and three children. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she operated a daycare center that provided her with a steady salary and a good living standard. But when the Chilean government issued strict restrictions to reduce the virus’s spread, her business, being a non-essential service, had to close its doors, and she lost her livelihood overnight.
After the disappearance of her primary source of income, TechnoServe helped Denisse identify new business opportunities. This is how Feria Móvil a Tu Casa was born. Denisse now sells fruits and vegetables from a mobile stall, which she sets up in front of local houses and condominiums. “I felt secure knowing that if I had a question, I could call my [TechnoServe] business advisor,” Denisse says. “My advisor’s experience allowed us to make decisions with as little risk as possible.”
At the same time, she transitioned her daycare center to an online format, carefully adapting the methodology and activities to stay in business. “We started with three students,” Denisse says. “Today, there are 30 students, including participants from all over Chile, a student from Germany, and another from Mexico that found us through the website.”
And, like many parents, Denisse has had to simultaneously juggle multiple roles. “Because of the pandemic, all the roles that before one experienced on different schedules, today they are all mixed from Monday to Sunday,” Denisse says. “I’m a mom, the owner of a house, a wife, an entrepreneur…I handle the social networks, answer the mail, and process orders.”
Adaptability has been the order of the day in an unpredictable time without a clear end. “The biggest challenge was knowing that we had to reinvent ourselves in different ways and knowing that the results we expected were not going to be immediate,” Denisse shares. “This year has certainly been a learning experience in trying to make the best decisions in scenarios of great uncertainty.”