COVID - 19 Response

India is one of the countries most affected by COVID -19. In a country of 1.3 billion, where millions are dependent on agriculture and daily wages, the crisis brought about extensive suffering, especially among migrant labourers who were forced to move from the cities they worked in, to their homes in the villages.

About 40 km from Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, there is a village called Baldi Kheda. Most of the villagers are socially and economically backward and their primary occupation is around agriculture and daily wage work.

Among them, 26-year-old Roshni lives with her husband Ramu (30) who is a daily wage labourer, and her two children. Her eldest is a five-year-old girl and the younger one is a two-year-old boy.

When the lockdown was imposed across India, many of the services were shut down, people were overwhelmed, and the government was struggling to garner available resources to fight the pandemic.

As it happened, Roshni was in the early stages of her third pregnancy. With the disruption in medical and health services and the front-line health workers, who take care of pregnant women under the health services of the government, busy in COVID-19 responses, she faced a huge challenge to receive proper ante-natal care.

Roshni’s husband, Ramu, who had no work and earning at the time, found it difficult to meet essential needs, let alone pay for care for Roshni in a private hospital.

Fortunately, Roshni is a regular member of Savitri Self Help Group formed in 2017 under the Shubh Mint Project, supported by MARS and CARE. She undertakes mint cultivation on her land. She sold around half of the mint oil she had produced this year which was 10 litres of mint oil, at only INR 950 in the local market- to meet household and maternal health expenses.

According to Roshni, “We earn INR 25,000 – 30,000 from mint oil every season. We do the farming under the guidance of the Shubh Mint project. They support us through high-quality paddies and regular assistance in mint farming from sowing till the end. We sell mint oil every year when the rates are highest. Usually, it is priced at INR 1,400 per litre. This year at the time of planting I was expecting INR 1,500 or more per litre but COVID -19 crisis affected the mint oil market badly. I planned to store the oil but during the lockdown, my family went into a financial crisis. Our small amount of savings was spent on food and ration. So, I decided to sell mint oil at only INR 950 per litre, which is INR 500 per litre less than last year.”

As time went by things became more difficult. Roshni had to spend more of the earnings from mint oil sale for the essential needs of her family and on her own health. When the lockdown was partially lifted, her husband thought he would get some work and wage, but instead, he fell ill. On top of this, the export of mint oil was also affected resulting in lower demand and prices.

Roshni decided to sell the rest of the mint oil that she had saved at the reduced price.  This money was spent on her husband’s treatment. In the dark and gloom, earnings from mint oil was a beacon of light that saw them through.

She shared “In this crisis, mint oil was my only hope. It helped me at a very critical time.” Roshni also thanked the Shubh Mint project for providing ration kits which reduced the expense of procuring food for the family.

Shubh Mint is part of a global program called AdvanceMint – a Mars Wrigley initiative to build resilient farms, resilient plants, and resilient communities across mint growing regions. It is one of the commitments to support a Healthy Planet and Thriving People through our Sustainable in a Generation Plan. We are implementing programs to improve the long-term viability of mint farming in Uttar Pradesh, India. We do this by providing training to farmers on good agricultural practices (GAP), access to better planting materials, creation of Farmer Producer Organizations to drive value to the farmer and supply traceability, and advancing the community through youth education and women’s empowerment programs.

CARE India Team