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A miracle in the village





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The roughly three-metre wide canal snakes its way sinuously yet uninterruptedly across the terrain, its tawny-coloured water flowing quietly, trailing the contours that define the area’s topography.

Sixty-eight-year-old Mzee Thomas Nzioka, a village elder, with a small twig in hand, unclogs a drainage conduit that directs some of the canal’s water into his farmstead.

He then stares fixedly at the flowing water and distantly mutters: “Though not as clean-looking as would be envisioned, it does serve the purpose for which it was intended.”

Mzee Nzioka is the village elder of Scheme Village, a small rustic community in Kithimani Ward of Yatta Constituency, Machakos County.

The area, according to him, is perennially dry, uncertain of rainfall for most of the year.

Area residents, occupying about 200 homesteads in his village alone, and many with no steady source of livelihood, are largely dependent on subsistence farming.

Many hardly harvest enough to sustain their food security and subsequently selling the surplus.

The winding canal, which according to Mzee Nzioka was built way back when the country was under colonial rule, and only just refurbished several months ago, has, for a long time, been their salvation on the many occasions the rains fail.

His village is not alone. Two other villages, Kauthulini and Kakangalani, both in Kithendu Sub-location of Kithimani, also rely on that canal for domestic and agriculture activities.

Other villages straddling the length of the canal, which sources its water from River Chania and drains it into Mwita Syano River, about 60 kilometres away, in Kitui County, also rely on it for the vital commodity.

In essence, in its own respect, the waterway holds an aspect of livelihoods of the smallholder communities lining either side of its course.

It sustains more than 70,000 smallholder farmers as well as many non-farmers along its course.

Mbula John-Musyoki in her one-acre farm in Yatta.

Mbula John-Musyoki in her one-acre farm in Yatta. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA

With perennial water problems to a degree addressed, the farming communities were faced with the challenge of erratic climate, acquisition of the right farming inputs, training on proper farming ways as well as markets for what they harvest.

Mbula John-Musyoki, 48, states that her only means of livelihood has, for years, been her one-acre plot. On this, the mother of four cultivates an assortment of crops that include maize, tomatoes, bananas, beans and sugar cane.

As a small-scale farmer, earning enough from her farm has been a constant challenge that she grapples with.

She cites poor and insufficient inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and pesticides, as some of the challenges she faces. Others are variable climatic conditions that lead to the emergence of pests and diseases.

Add to this no training on proper farming skills, and it becomes clear when she says: “For ages, I only harvested barely enough for my family’s consumption and very little; especially the sugar cane, left for sale.”

Like the rest of the community, Mbula largely depends on the Yatta Furrow, as the area residents call it, for watering her crops.

Retired teacher Julius Mutuku Kasai is yet another smallholder farmer reliant on the canal. The 62-year-old cultivates maize, tomatoes, fruits, French beans, eggplant, and dudhi (lauki), among other vegetables.


Kasai became a full-time farmer upon retiring. Like other farmers in the area, he has challenges acquiring proper pesticides, seeds and fertiliser. He also lacks proper knowledge in carrying out farming.

The Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) — an independent partnership of public and private organisations, working towards a resilient, sustainable and prosperous future for vulnerable people by expediting grants to regions at high risk of recurrent crises such as climate threats, flooding and food insecurity — stepped in to assuage the situation.

The enterprise, which considers resilience a prerequisite for understanding the drivers and impacts of complex issues to help communities and stakeholders identify and implement novel solutions, works in effecting these best practices and innovations needed to build communities’ long-term adaptability to these challenges.

In Machakos County, the partnership, through the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri), is advancing a module called Innovative Financing Models Boosting Resilience for Kenyan Smallholder Farmers.

Julius Kasai weeds the eggplants that he grows in his farm in Yatta.

Julius Kasai weeds the eggplants that he grows in his farm in Yatta. The farming communities in the area largely depend on the Yatta canal for water. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA

“Climate change produces unpredictable short and long rainy seasons, making farmers’ livelihoods subject to weather shocks. Ifpri has, therefore, devised a novel financial product, which helps manage this risk.

“The product called Risk Contingent Credit (RCC) is linked to rainfall index; low rainfall triggers a repayment on the farmer’s loan, acting as a safety net in times of crop failure. It essentially eases a farmer’s repayment of a loan in case of weather-related crop failure,” says Dismas Manoti, a field officer with AgriFood Economics Africa, one of the partner organisations in the programme.

This loan, according to him, is given in the form of inputs, therefore, the financing system acts as a social safety net, allowing farmers to carry on with their activities even through poor harvests.

Together with other farmers in the involved villages, Mzee Nzioka, who was among the first beneficiaries of the programme on its inception in 2017, have seen an improvement in farm production.

“Through a local bank, Equity, we received the inputs needed as well as training from AgriFood Economics Africa. Some months later, those whose yields were plentiful began repaying the loan at just Sh500 per month. Some, who were not as lucky with their harvests were to an extent relieved. The repayment is flexible; you pay when you have enough and defer when not ready,” Mzee Nzioka says.

Through minimising the risk factor involved in farming in such areas, the project now gives smallholder farmers confidence to invest in their farms, increasing their resilience against risks and maximising their incomes.

Programme lead, Dr Apurba Shee, who is also a Business Development Economist and senior lecturer at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich, notes that the programme extends to crop insurance in form of weather index insurance, based on rainfall data. This, according to him, is embedded within the credit product that provides protection in bad weather conditions.

“Initially, we had a scoping mission and visited many counties in Kenya. We played pictorial games to communicate the idea of RCC with farming communities and received overwhelming response. We then sought to start with a semi-arid region and selected Machakos. We, however, plan to expand to other areas in due course,” Dr Shee says.


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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard




Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.


However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard




President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health




Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.


Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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