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Cargill and Heifer International Provide Meal Support for over 800 Hatching Hope India Families Affected by Covid-19 Pandemic

November 30, 2020

As millions lost their income sources during India’s lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, poor and marginalized communities had little to fall back on for their subsistence needs. In response to this, the national government, introduced various Covid-19 relief schemes to provide support for poor and vulnerable groups. However, many families were unable to participate in the schemes because they lacked documentation or failed to meet statutory requirements.

Falling in the gaps, millions of families were left to fend for themselves and their survival. Without any aid, many tribal families in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha were forced to feed themselves with whatever they could produce or gather. Many families have been surviving by eating a handful of boiled rice with salt and wild grass twice a day. Any income from agriculture and other sources has been used to purchase rice for all family members, leaving no money to buy other nutritious foods to include in their meals.

For the farmers in Odisha who are recovering from Cyclone Amphan while dealing with poultry mortality caused by an avian disease outbreak, the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown has challenged their communities’ resilience. Recognizing the need for help, Heifer International and Cargill, which have been working together towards improving the economic livelihood and nutrition of 30,000 smallholder farmers in the district through the Hatching Hope Initiative, conducted a rapid assessment test along with their partners in Mayurbhanj to identify families to support. While most Hatching Hope families were reportedly able to handle the consecutive crises and support themselves with adequate food and meet other needs, the assessment identified 896 families that were struggling to make their ends meet. Cargill offered INR 18,00,000 (US$ 25,000) as aid to extremely vulnerable families so they could afford meals during this time of crisis.

Hatching Hope reached out to these 896 families - nearly 4,900 people – supporting them with nutritious diet for a month. Each family received a meal package worth INR 2,000 (US$ 27) including regional staples, cereals, pulses, vegetables, salt, spices and cooking oil. The meal package was designed to ensure that everyone in each family was able to meet their required nutritional needs. It also consisted of basic sanitary products to ensure hygiene and sanitation to prevent diseases.

Women members of 570 local Self-Help Groups from more than 200 villages associated with the Hatching Hope project helped procure meal kits and distribute them among the selected families to lift their spirits, sending a message of hope and solidarity in the community. The following stories are from women who received this support:

  • Malha Kisku lives with her husband Ambai Kisku and their four children in Faljhuri village, Mayurbhanj. Malha’s physical ailments and her husband’s partial blindness render them dependent on income through sale of sal leaves and sabai rope making. With the sudden imposition of lockdown restrictions preventing them access to the forests, the Kiskus were left with few resources to sustain themselves. The meal support provided by the project helped Malha ensure there’s a sufficient amount of food for her family  for at least this coming month.
  • Sulochna Karji has dwarfism and is unable to walk without support. Her mother, Phulakeri, does odd labor jobs to provide for her daughter and a son. However, as a result of the restriction on labor work during lockdown and subsequent months, the family went days without food. "We weren’t been able to arrange two decent meals a day for months. This support has come at very critical time for my family,” Sulochna shared.
  • Sumati Soren is a single mother, who relies on labor work to financially provide for her family. The lockdown forced her and her two young children to rely on charity meals provided by their relatives and neighbors. The meal support package has helped her feed herself and her children in their own home with dignity. 

For many more families suffering from poverty, hunger and fear of contracting the fatal disease, this support has helped increase their safety and security during a time of great uncertainty.