Ermelinda Pedro Mendonça is president of the farmers’ association Granja Pessube. This mother of 4 children has both suffered the crisis and participated in the solution, distributing emergency aid. One year later, we asked her about the situation in the country, the changes that have taken place and her vision for the future.

One year after the outbreak of the coronavirus, are the local populations still facing difficulties in accessing sufficient food?

Ermelinda: Yes, we are still experiencing difficulties one year after the start of the pandemic. The biggest problem for us in rural areas is the difficulty in accessing transportation. Many women are already elderly and cannot walk to the fields to cultivate them. The lack of transport leads to a decrease in production. But the situation is not only difficult for the elderly, it is a daily struggle to ensure food for the children and the whole family.

What is the biggest change you have faced in your daily life in the last year?

Ermelinda: We are facing many difficulties, but I would say that one of the main changes is the decrease in purchasing power. Coupled with the drop in production that I mentioned before, we have great shortfalls. In the last year, the level of poverty has increased dramatically.

“In the last year, the level of poverty has increased considerably,” explains Ermelinda Pedro Mendonça, president of the Granja Pessube peasant association. This mother of 4 children has both suffered the crisis and participated in the solution, by distributing emergency aid.

SWISSAID: What is your main concern (food, access to healthcare, vaccines)?

Ermelinda: Without question, the most important thing for us is food. It’s not that others aren’t, but no one can resist hunger.

SWISSAID: How has SWISSAID been able to help you this past year?

Ermelinda: The support of SWISSAID has been extremely important for us, thank you very much. The food and hygiene products distributed have greatly alleviated our suffering. The curfew imposed by the government as a result of the state of emergency has put us in such distress, so you can’t imagine how useful this support was for us.

In addition, together with the women of the association, we implemented the measures of a SWISSAID emergency project for the poor. Everything was closed, so our work was limited, but I believe that the awareness through our sensitization had a positive impact. We managed to raise awareness about how to act properly to avoid contagion and transmission of the virus, for example by asking women to maintain a social distance, to wash their hands often with soap, to clean surfaces with bleach, to avoid going to places with crowds, etc.