The COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves throughout the world. The situation was unprecedented and the damage, relentless. The world economy went into a deep shock and the tremors were felt everywhere, more so in developing countries, where a slight shift in the economic situation often forces people to drop below the poverty line.
Pakistan was no different. The country was gradually recovering from 2019’s growing economic woes when the pandemic struck and left the government with no choice but to shutter the country for weeks in March, 2020. With a country of 220 million, many of them daily-wage workers, the challenge seemed impossible, daunting at best.
Watching the situation unfold from the remote village of Bewato in Tharparkar, Roopan and her family felt an uncertain uneasiness depending on them. With 3 sons and 2 daughters alongside her husband Tamachi, there were many mouths to feed and income seemed to be drying up for them, as daily-wage work practically closed up.
This could have been a situation where most people do not recover from. But Roopan had an ace up her sleeve; she was a small-holder farmer, growing her own vegetables on a small plot of land.
A few months ago, she had signed up for a program where a team of experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations with support from UKAID (DFID) imparted basic skills and techniques which would eventually help these women farmers establish their own kitchen gardens.
From a situation that seemed perilous with medical bills piling up because of nutritional deficiencies and lack of income during COVID-19, Roopan has managed to keep her house stable and is hopeful for the future.
“I realized the importance of providing fresh and nutritious meals. I was able to cook fresh meals for my children every day at practically no cost,” says Roopan. “I am also planting the Kharif seasonal crop which should be ready for harvest anytime now,” she adds.
Her own house has seen a drop in medical expenses and has also managed to add monthly savings of PKR 3,000, at a time where the Government of Pakistan was forced to develop the largest income support programme of the country to help a large chunk of the working population manage their essential expenses.
For a country like Pakistan, where women empowerment struggles to reach all corners of the society, it is incredible to be able to celebrate Food Heroes like Roopan, who have not only managed to become major assets in their families, but have also made the community proud in the process.
Across Pakistan, FAO is striving to achieve food security by enabling thousands of Food Heroes like Roopan.