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Chinese national at home growing moringa in Makueni

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By PIUS MAUNDU
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At the foot of the enchanting Kiou Hills, situated between Salama and Sultan Hamud townships along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, sits an expansive moringa farm.

The magnificent farm opposite Kwothithu market teems with 1,400  bushes and belongs to Mr Changhong Li, a Chinese.

The businessman is making locals rethink the value of their land in the semi-arid region as his moringa trees sway with heavy seed pods and white flowers. A team of 32 workers with sacks strapped on their backs is harvesting the seeds and the flowers, which Mr Changhong exports.

“Moringa is a special plant whose products are in high demand across the world. It does well in hot and dry conditions like here,” says the 44-year-old.

Mr Changhong arrived in Kenya in 2008 following heightened Chinese interest in the country as a trade and investment destination.

His interests were in aloe vera, castor seeds, macadamia nuts, pyrethrum and sisal fibre, which he often shipped home.

He stands out from most of his countrymen who mainly settle for road works, mineral prospecting, real estate, wildlife trophies, and  building of the standard gauge railway line.

“I grew up in the Chinese countryside to farming parents, I loved agriculture early in my life. I actively assisted my parents to grow rice, wheat, maize and pyrethrum throughout my school and college days,” says Mr Changhong, who studied international trade at university. From his 25 acres, the businessman harvests 15 tonnes of moringa, which he sells to Botanical Extracts Ltd based at the Athi River EPZ for processing and export.

He also buys aloe vera, moringa  and castor seeds from farmers in the country and across the region to add to what he produces himself, sorts them at a depot in Embakasi, Nairobi, before they are processed at the EPZ firm. “The market for aloe vera, moringa and castor oils in China is huge because of the country’s big population and vibrant economy. Moringa is medicinal,” says Mr Changhon.

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But how did he choose to farm in Makueni? “One day I was travelling on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway with an application on my iPhone that could help me identify the most suitable place to grow moringa. I stopped at Kiongwani when the app showed that the place was 1,500 metres above sea level and the temperature was 15 degrees Celsius. These were ideal conditions for the tree. I asked a local if I could get some moringa trees and they showed me around,” he recalls.

Later, he met chief Daniel Munyao who told him that castor and moringa trees thrived in the area. Mr Munyao helped him acquire land, says Mr Changhong, a founder member and  executive vice-president of the Kenya Chinese Chamber of Commerce (KCCC), an organisation that promotes the welfare of the Chinese business community in the country. There are more than 500 Chinese companies doing business in Kenya, says the farmer.

“They should give back to communities as a way of showing responsibility for the welfare of Kenyans,” says the businessman who recently led a mission to distribute books at Kwale Primary School in Makueni County.

“I like it here. Kenyans are very hard-working and resilient,” says Mr Changhong, who travels home often.

In China, he says, it is not easy for farmers to get sizeable land to grow crops. Kenya has not scratched the surface of its potential in agriculture and business but it is on the right track, he says.

The father of  two plans to set up a factory near his farm to process moringa, a move that has seen him acquire land and recruit neighbours to grow aloe vera, castor and moringa. He has been offering them free seedlings and assuring them of a ready market.

“We have accepted Mr Changhong as one of our own. He is a valuable member of this community because he has created many jobs,” says Mr  Munyao, the Kwale area chief.



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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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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