Emmaus International

Through a series of interviews, Emmaus International would like to share its members' views on the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the movement worldwide. We asked Poppy John Xavier, team coordinator at Kudumbam, to share her thoughts. We asked her about how her group is managing to continue its work during this crisis period, about the new types of solidarity that are emerging in India and how agroecology can be used to fight poverty.


Kudumbam runs microcredit actions and promotes sustainable agriculture in the south of India. What has its work been like during lockdown and the crisis period? To what extent are you able to continue your projects?

KUDUMBAM in the South of India, has been running training in sustainable agriculture since 1982, and from 2015, we have been involved in a microcredit programme. In collaboration with NABFINS (National Bank Financial Services), we have established 1,603 women’s groups (8,500 borrowers). During the lockdown period, a halt to all EMI collection has resulted in their income from service charges falling to nil. Thanks to the emergency support from Emmaus International, this has installed the confidence needed to overcome this crisis and build a better world. Through their field staff, they have established contact with their agricultural borrowers to mobilise and distribute food and vegetables to vulnerable people.

Public aid is almost non-existent in India, especially for people who work in the informal sector. How are local people coping during this crisis period? Are there new forms of solidarity being set up?

In a disaster like COVID, the poorest of the poor are the most affected, and the elderly are abandoned and left to die. KUDUMBAM has been able to mobilise funds from local partnerships, which have come forward to support 200 families with relief kits containing food provisions. KUDUMBAM continues to mobilise additional support to extend solidarity to more people in need during this crisis period.

For a long time, Emmaus International has been calling for the joint management of common assets with the most excluded, in terms of access to fundamental rights and respect for the environment. India is one of the countries where the Emmaus groups are setting up agroecology as a means of combating poverty and promoting the right to healthy food. What does the pandemic teach us about the importance of Emmaus International’s demand in this respect?

Agriculture in India is more than 1000 years old. A change from integrated farming to mono-cropping systems has happened in just 70 years. Hence we have lost our soil, water and we have destroyed our environment. Today multinational companies say: GMO seeds and corporate farming is the only alternative, calling into question the very existence of small and marginalised farmers. Our advocacy needs to question unsustainable policies. We need to denounce agro-business practices both locally as well as through lobbying global authorities/institutions, which will determine whether we take a confrontational or a smoother approach.