COVID - 19 Response

The COVID – 19 pandemic has had a massive impact not only on the physical and psychological health of people but also on the economic and social well-being as well. Among them, the poor and the marginalized, especially the women and girls, had to face the brunt of the lockdown. 50-year-old Savitri Devi lost her livelihood, and her little savings, staring at hunger in the eye.

The landless widow from Rasoolpur village of Zaidpur Shubh Mint cluster in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, is a member of ‘Durga Devi’ Self Help Group under Shubh Mint Project supported by MARS and CARE. Her husband died when she was 41 and she had an option to remarry with her then 9-year-old son, but she decided otherwise.

Her husband was a daily wager and after his death, she found it difficult to manage her house and her son. She started working as an agricultural labourer in her village. Though the income was not enough for a decent life, yet she was determined to provide a good education to her son. Life had other plans, and her now 18-year-old son could not complete his studies and works as a daily wager too.

Agricultural work was allowed during lockdown with strict precautions and most of the migrant workers were back home from the cities. The return of the migrant workers caused a crisis in agricultural labour work. Most of the migrant workers started working on their own in their fields to save money. So Savitri Devi was left without work and her small saving of INR 3,000 was spent on daily essential needs.

During the lockdown, we were not able to buy vegetables and oil, so we ate boiled rice a few times. Every member of the SHG group was in great pain, people lost their sources of income and we were amongst them, it was difficult to live. In the meantime, I got some help from the government authorities. However, when I received the ration kit from CARE India with the support of MARS it was a great relief for me and my son”, Savitri said.

According to her, the ration was enough to feed two people for more than a month, and she was sure that in that period she will be able to start work. And fortunately, that is exactly what happened. As the lockdown eased, she got work within the month.

Savitri Devi gets emotional and says, “I cried many times when I saw that my son is hungry, and I am unable to feed him”.

She then smiles and hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

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.

Vandana Mishra