Resilience in the face of COVID-19: Poultry for women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka

The women leaders of the Backyard Poultry Project in Rambewa village, Sri Lanka, are ready to do what it takes to protect their business in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The project, part of the IFAD-funded Smallholder Agribusiness Partnerships Programme (SAPP), works with more than 57,000 Sri Lankan households, facilitating business activities with the goal of sustainably increasing incomes and improving nutrition. 

Before COVID-19 hit, business was thriving. The project was supplying eggs to other Sri Lankan communities and even taking orders from the Hilton Hotels chain. They were also able to sell their free-range eggs for twice the price of normal eggs, creating additional value. 

The arrival of the pandemic has brought not only risks to health, but enormous challenges and risks for the project, too – but the women leaders of Rambewa are not ready to give up. They plan to keep running their business throughout the pandemic just as before, while following all safety measures as instructed by the government.

So far, their typical flow of sales has not stopped – and the women have come up with ways to deliver their product. They’ve received special permission from the town council to set up retail points in different areas of nearby towns.

They’ve been prepared for other situations too. The Government of Sri Lanka has imposed a strict curfew as part of their efforts to contain the spread of the virus. This limits the hours when customers can come to pick up eggs – and could have restricted the project’s business, if the women leaders hadn’t been prepared. In April, when the curfew was lifted for six hours, the Backyard Poultry Project was ready. Their collection center loaded 3,128 eggs in under three hours, registering a record-breaking number of sales.