by Samuele Tini, Responsible of Country for Mani Tese in Kenya
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine does not only affect Europe but also distant and already fragile countries such as Kenya.
What makes the bombs in Kiev a source of problems even for the producers involved in our development projects in Molo or Baringo, which have already been severely tested by these two years of pandemic and economic crisis?
Grain and food products
The answer is that Kenya imports more than 75% of its wheat and other foodstuffs, including maize for animal feed (100% imported) and sunflower oil.
With regard to ingredients for animal feed, demand had already grown exponentially over the past year, leading to a doubling of prices. By the end of last year, in fact, the country’s large livestock companies had spoken of imminent collapse.
As regards grain, many African countries are more than 60-80% dependent on imports of the product from Ukraine and Russia. This is a very problematic situation, which will certainly have social repercussions.
Other problems concern exports: Russia was one of the leading importers of tea, roses and agricultural products from Kenya. But now with the sanctions everything is blocked and this will cause further damage.
Commodities, energy, inflation
The war has already caused the price of raw materials to rise, and supply disruptions from Russia and Ukraine, which sell 40% of their production to African and Middle Eastern countries, are certain to be felt even more intensely.
The cost of crude oil at USD 110 is not good news for Kenya, a country almost 100% dependent on fossil fuels. The price of fertilisers, also imported from Russia and China as far as Kenya is concerned, is rising and has already doubled since last year.
Food basket inflation is 9%. According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the burden is heaviest on poor households, as food constitutes almost 40% of their expenditure.
Energy is another problem. The price of kerosene and paraffin has increased by 21% in less than a year, and it is rising. 6kg cooking gas has more than doubled and this is not good news for forest resources. The increase in gas is in fact pushing people back to using wood and charcoal in cities as well.
The social situation
The outcry over this situation in Kenya has also spread on social media, showing how the tension over prices is putting a strain on the country. But a Twitter hashtag is unlikely to change this.
Tensions created by skyrocketing grain and feed prices are compounded by political tensions and local instability, exacerbated by drought and climate change.
The winds of war blowing in Europe have never subsided in Africa and particularly in the countries around Kenya, with the harsh conflict in Ethiopia and the low-intensity fighting on the Somali border, and the problem of banditry and cattle theft.
Unfortunately, in recent days, bandits from the Baringo area have killed seven people during attacks in Loruk.
Our work alongside local communities
This situation also inevitably causes suffering for the producers with whom we work.
In the Baringo area, through our development cooperation projects such as ‘Agri-change: small business big opportunities. Development of agri-food chains in the Molo river basin’, co-financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, we are working to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by promoting biogas. We are also trying to introduce local products into the composition of animal feed. In agriculture, we promote the use of improved local seeds and the agro-ecological transition to reduce dependence on synthetic chemical fertilisers.
At this time, within the limits of our resources, we are trying to stand by communities and small businesses and help them make difficult choices. Certainly producers will have to reduce animal stocks and prepare for a complex period, but we are confident of their resilience and capacity shown in these two very tough years of pandemics, lockdowns and economic crisis.
Hopes for recovery in this scenario are certainly not rosy, but we continue our work and our commitment to justice alongside local communities.
To support our commitment to justice in Kenya, use the reason for payment “Emergency Kenya” and DONATE ONLINE or via bank transfer through iban IT 57 F 05018 01600 000010203040 and Bic/Swift CCRTIT2T84A made out to Associazione MANI TESE ONG Onlus.