WINNIPEG — Veronica Amma doesn’t have time to listen to gossip.
Amma, a widow who lives in Sri Lanka, lives in an area where widows are scorned as “inauspicious” for being unlucky enough to lose their husband.
And not only that: women, so the gossip goes, are not supposed to be breadwinners.
As both a widow and a breadwinner, Amma sometimes finds herself being talked about by others in her community.
She ignores the gossip. She just keeps doing what she needs to do.
“I am forever working away in my garden, sometimes even by moonlight at midnight,” she says.
Even that makes people talk, she says, adding that some people “have a superstition that if we weed by moonlight, pests will blight the crops.”
But Amma has no time for such superstitions, “just like I have no time for gossiping about widows who work.”
As for the gardening at moonlight, she likes to point out that “my crops turned out just fine.”
Amma is taking part in a project run by Canadian Foodgrains Bank member World Renew, through their local partner, ZOA, to help small-scale farming communities affected by flooding, followed by drought.
Through the project, farmers are being helped to bounce back after losing their crops, or being unable to plant for a season.
Amma received seeds to plant a new crop, and payment for working on community disaster reduction projects while her crop was growing.
“Thanks to that money, we didn’t have to go into debt at the grocers like we usually did to purchase our food,” she says.
She also received training in good farming practices.
“I never went to school, and started farming at the age of 10,” she says. “I thought I knew most of what there was to know about farming in our area.”
That was until she started working with the project’s local agricultural expert, a man named Malliganthan.
“Using his tips, even with the drought, I got rice and peanuts of a size and quality we had never harvested before in this area,” she says.
She sold the peanuts and other vegetables in her local market, but was so proud of her rice she couldn’t bear to part with it.
“They are such beautiful golden grain,” she says. “I don’t have the heart to use it even for my own home’s consumption. My heart bursts with joy whenever I see my produce.”
The happiness she receives from her farming helps to make the sorrows of her life a little easier to bear.
“I am continuously working to forget my pain,” she says.
Amma’s husband died four years ago. Her oldest daughter was born partially disabled. She cannot talk, has vision only in one eye, and is lame in one foot.
But the project has helped both her and those who weren’t part of the project.
“Even the non-beneficiaries in the village see how well we are prospering, and are emulating us,” she says.