As the global pandemic continues to bring unexpected twists and challenges, the world has had to learn to adapt to a new, ever evolving and uncertain normal. In India, this has certainly been the case, from the first lockdown which resulted in mass migration from cities to villages as millions working in the informal sector lost their livelihoods, to the reopening of much of the economy, and now during regional spikes of COVID that have resulted in various degrees of lockdown once again.
The initial lockdown
At Industree Foundation, we have also had to continually adapt and expand our pandemic response strategy, which consists of three main pillars: lives, livelihoods, and life after COVID.
During the first period of lockdown, we focussed on supporting our producers’ lives through continuous communication, providing them with safety information and monitoring their health and well-being remotely. We provided virtual training to teach producers how to make masks to protect themselves and their families, and developed work from home initiatives on orders for masks to protect our artisans livelihoods.
Returning to the units
The lockdown eventually lifted, and Industree cautiously reopened its production units. In Tamil Nadu, Industree incubated GreenKraft producer company units supported by USAID through the POWER Project were reopened with a rotating schedule to limit the amount of producers present at a time in respect to social distancing. On any given day, only producers from the same village were allowed in the unit, further preventing the potential spread of COVID into their communities The producers not present were able to continue their work from home, and continue earning dignified livelihoods.
Locked down, perseverance high
The rotating schedule was working smoothly and safely, until the number of COVID cases spiked in Madurai, inducing another lockdown and the GreenKraft units were shut once again. However, there were vast differences in this lockdown from the first, as the Industree team and our passionate producers had a powerful, supportive system of communication already in place, and productivity remained high. Now, the restrictions have lifted and operations have resumed on a rotating schedule, with production of banana bark baskets and masks taking place in the units and in producers’ homes.
Launching the Odisha production units
Through teamwork and the support of our partners, we have been able to open new production units in Odisha, also supported by the USAID POWER Project. The women producers, who usually work with biodegradable Siali leaves, have been trained to make masks.
The way forward
While the pandemic has created continuous obstacles and challenges, it has also demonstrated the enormous capacity for teamwork, and the passion that drives our team, producers, and partners. We will continue to stay true to our mission throughout the new developments of the pandemic, keeping our producers at the center of our efforts and rising to meet their needs despite the challenges.