The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Kenyan farmers

How the pandemic experience in Kenya has been different from here in Canada

By: Sarah Muthee

As I reflect on how fortunate we have been, living in a province where access to health care remains a fundamental human right, I am especially drawn back to March 14, 2020 when Prince Edward Island confirmed its first case of COVID-19. At that time, Kenya was doing well, and two days prior just announced its first positive case in the capital, Nairobi.

Many Kenyans like the rest of the world didn’t take COVID-19 seriously. Interestingly, due to misinformation and lack of access to credible information by the most vulnerable population, most thought of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a conspiracy theory. The public health measures were seen as an attack on democracy and freedom of movement and association, and an impending destruction to an already-inflated economy.

Nineteen months after the pandemic destabilized our once “normal” society, so much has evolved. The science on the SARS-CoV-2 has advanced, with testing and diagnosis taking less than 24 hours in Canada. Healthcare workers have enough supplies of vital personal protective equipment, which were scarce at the beginning of the pandemic. Contact tracing effectively helps isolate those infected from the rest of the population. Federal and provincial financial supports were made available for those who have lost their jobs, businesses or have to isolate due to COVID-19. The mode of learning and worship switched from in-person to online learning for students and parishioners. And now, to having an effective and safe vaccine to prevent against the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus and associated strains.

These are all health, financial, education, social, and economic privileges that very few living in the developed countries have afforded in the past months. Unlike millions living in North America who had the privilege of spending weeks at home with guaranteed financial support while governments redirected resources to fight this deadly virus, the reality of things is that most Kenyans had to continue working in the most unfavourable climate in order to afford a meal, rent, healthcare, school fees, and farm supplies.

The economic impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus was mostly felt when the night curfews and social distancing protocols came into effect, presenting both economic and health risks to those living in rural Kenya. The lockdowns resulted in high levels of unemployment in an already worsening economy; school closures where students lost a whole academic year; food shortages, thus, increased household food insecurity; distortion in food and farm input prices; and disruptions in the farm inputs supply chain just to name a few. The loss of loved ones due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been felt globally, and mostly especially by families who have lost one of their own.

As of October 15, 2021, only 4.4% of the 47.6 million Kenyans had been either partially or fully vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with cumulative deaths standing at 5,223 as of October 17, 2021. When we narrow down to the Meru County, where Farmers Helping Farmers has been a beacon of hope for women groups and the smallholder dairy farmers, only 2.2% of the 989,186 Meru residents are fully vaccinated, and about 7.1% have received their first dose. As the pandemic unfolds into the fifth wave, much remains to be done to protect the most vulnerable from this virus.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, FHF has continued its work in Meru, while following health protocols. The FHF staff continued their work, focused more on individuals rather than hosting group education sessions. Through generous donations from FHF supporters, we were able to provide reusable masks to all of the students in our twinned schools, and handwashing supplies to those same schools. FHF will continue to support the schools and families in Meru county to try to keep them safe throughout the pandemic.

As Farmers Helping Farmers continues to support the most vulnerable of the Kenyan population, rural women and smallholder dairy farmers, be assured that your much-appreciated donations are being put to good use, by providing the economic buffer to the people who need it the most

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