On March 13, 2020, the first case of Coronavirus was ascertained in Kenya. The projections of the infection for now are quite optimistic, with 270 positive, 14 deaths and 67 recovered to date. But alongside health concerns, there is also the country’s economic concern, which is negatively affected by the shocks inflicted on the most important sectors of the local fabric, such as tourism and exports. From the first estimates of a study by McKinsey, a contraction of growth from 5.2% to 1.9% of GDP is forecast.
In this scenario, our work is to support rural communities, continuing to be by their side and helping to strengthen their resilience and to face the situation without fear. With digital media, telephone farming and our presence in key activities for agricultural production and livestock, we help build the post-crisis scenario to ensure the population’s income and food security.
Since the announcement of the first case, with far-sightedness, the Minister of Health has immediately tried to curb irrational behavior by indicating which procedures to follow, including, first of all, that of making hand washing a widespread habit . Despite the difficulties of the local situation, the government continued to work to introduce other preventive measures: the supply of disinfectant gel, the obligation of masks, the practice of a healthy social distance.
The government has ordered that essential services for the economy must remain open, while for others it has encouraged remote and online work. The activities involving gatherings have been postponed or the use of technologies has been used, while the essential ones (agriculture and livestock) have been implemented more because the production of food and the chains connected to it are functional to the survival of the population.
Mani Tese and the local partner NECOFA have done a great job of raising awareness in rural areas, an activity that we have already undertaken before March 13, thanks to the lessons learned from the spread of the infection in Europe and around the world.
Raise awareness to prevent COVID19
The project AGRICHANGE: SMALL ENTERPRISES, GREAT OPPORTUNITIES Development of agro-food supply chains in the Molo River basin, co-financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), which Mani Tese launched in Kenya in November 2019 concerns the areas of Baringo and Molo and, indirectly, supports communities during this global crisis.
To date, the county of Baringo, the main intervention area, has not found positive cases of the Coronavirus. Although this is a comfort to us, the staff is always alert and continues to raise awareness through the dissemination of official messages and government guidelines, including through the use of new technologies.
“Today, although we are a community known for our sociability, we must have fewer activities such as cultural festivals, weddings and meetings” tells us Dinah Sikamoi of the Meoro Women Group in Salabani, “As a group we have phone meetings and our practices, such as shaking hands, have been prohibited. It is very strange, but necessary”.
Thanks to training and awareness work, many behaviors have been changed.
“There are far fewer trips from the village, we are getting used to not shaking hands and not celebrating weddings“, Helen Salaja from Sinyati Women Group in Sokotei tells us. “To date we are using our techniques to produce soap and sell it to the community, in order to secure children and the elderly.“
Guarantee the income
The impact of the virus in rural areas is felt above all in the economic sphere, due to the closure or reduction of part of the business, especially the tourist ones.
In Marigat, at the sites where, as part of the Agrichange project, we are building the centers for the breeding of pigs and insects and a honey processing laboratory, we comply with the regulations imposed by the government with greater control at the entrances, the use of masks and the maintenance of social distance between workers.
“This is a very tough time for many friends who are day laborers”, says John Kibet, one of the workers, “but being able to continue working gives us the opportunity to maintain our income and feed our families. We really want to thank Mani Tese”.
Telephone farming: rural training at the time of the Coronavirus
Digital technology was also used in the hills of Molo to continue training, assistance and support to communities. This was also a way to give a voice to the younger ones in the groups, who are more familiar with new technologies.
One of them is John Mworia of Tumaini SHG in Njoro, who said: “We want to thank Mani Tese and NECOFA because the activities they have supported are those that are helping us to survive. As a group we are involved in pig fattening and we started the first trials for the cultivation of mushrooms, which was already practiced in the area in the past. For now we use the telephone farming service, asking for instructions and advice from the operators of Mani Tese and NECOFA to continue our work in the best possible way. At the group level, I am the best at new technologies and act as a go-between for the older members. I take pictures of progress or problems and ask the team of Mani Tese and NECOFA for advice, reporting the answers to our members“.
The Elburgon pig breeding center, which the Agrichange project is supporting, has also put in place a series of preventive rules.
“We have created a System totally based on MPESA (payment system using mobile phone)”, says Lucy Wanjiru, Manager at Toraet Pig Farm in Elburgon in Molo, “Customers now have to order in advance to ensure separate deliveries in different time slots. The high level of hygiene for biosecurity has been further increased and farmer visits have been postponed“.
In Marigat, in the activities with insects and pigs, hygiene measures were further strengthened and plans were made to secure the reproduction of insect colonies. It was necessary to face the emergency of the reduction of organic residues from the market, necessary to grow the larvae, recovering them at the farms in the area. The containers were sanitized and the work areas cleaned. Mani Tese and NECOFA worked in collaboration with the local ministry of public health to ensure proper management of waste collection and hygiene. A work that has been greatly appreciated.