When the heavens open in Garissa County, it does not just rain, it pours. And when this happens, large volumes of water collect at the lowest point near the Dadaab Refugee Camp, forming a large pool.
Once the rains are gone and the sun returns with a vengeance, the water in the pool begins to recede. But because the soil retains some of the moisture, farmers from the camp start planting on the moist soil.
‘This practice is called flood recession agriculture,’ said Aurthur Mutambikwa, the Livelihoods Officer in the Dadaab sub-office of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Ms Fatuma Ibrahim is one of the refugees who has been practising flood recession agriculture on a small-scale. When she was an urban dweller in Mogadishu, she knew little or nothing about farming.
Now, however, she is a member of a small and informal farming community calling itself the Shamba Group. This group brings together both refugees and members from the host community in the area surrounding the camp.
Together, they grow tomatoes, okra, water melons and pumpkins. ‘We get the tomato seeds from Somalia,’ said Suleiman Farah Abdi, a Kenyan, who is also the leader of the group. He also grows watermelons on a separate patch.
The farmers have divided themselves into six sub-groups, each trying out something different although most of them grow tomatoes.
Others, like Abdi Mohammed have started experimenting with pawpaws and lemons, but this experiment is still in its early stages.
For tomatoes, it is easier for them to source for the seeds from Somalia since there is regular traffic between Dadaab and the Liboi border point, about 82 kilometres away.
The alternative would be Garissa town, which is a two-hour drive from Dadaab. Another farmer, Hawa Aden partners with her two colleagues, Nathifa Khalif and Jowaher Korane, to jointly grow tomatoes and pumpkins.
Originally from Mareri in Lower Juba, Ms Aden, who became a refugee at 53, has also been experimenting with growing pumpkins.
“Our main challenge is water,” Ms Aden told Seeds of Gold.
‘If you prepare the pumpkin in camel oil, you cannot share with your child even if he cries for it,’ said Abdi, praising the crop grown by his refugee counterpart.
When UNHCR learnt that water was the biggest challenge for the farmers, it sunk a borehole not too far from where the farmers grow their crops.
This water is pumped to two tanks at the site and the farmers use it to irrigate their crops. However, this remains a short-term solution because borehole water is both saline and expensive because the system has to be maintained.
‘The long-term solution is to harvest water,’ said Mutambikwa. ‘If we solve the water problem for the farmers, they can increase production.’ Ms Ibrahim agrees with this assessment.
‘With water we can do more,’ she said.Although the refugees have been engaging in small-scale agriculture for a long time, it was not until August that the UNHCR started supporting them. The agency identified farmers who already had their own implements.
The aim was simple: To help them expand opportunities to improve their livelihoods through training in agriculture and business.
‘UNHCR also links farmers with government departments which offer extension services,’ said Mutambikwa. Although the farmers do not grow enough tomatoes to meet the demand of the local community, the amounts that Dadaab traders used to order from Garissa has decreased over time.
Now, more families both inside and outside the refugee camp are buying from the local farmers. If the county government were to allow the groups to till larger spaces than they are currently, productivity is likely to increase further.
Besides water, pests remain one of the other major challenges for the nascent group. When the Seeds of Gold team visited one of their farms, measuring about two to three acres, they found the farmers had widely spaced the tomato plants in the hope that this would reduce the spread of pests from one plant to the next.
The plants which were free of pests and disease were thriving, some carrying a sizeable number of the small but succulent fruit.
According to Mutambikwa, better inputs and seeds with higher yields and which are better suited for the area hold the key to improving productivity.
For the farmers, however, there is more to farming than getting high yields. First, there is little to do in the camps and for them, farming is a way to engage their time productively.
It is also a way to diversify their diets since all of them rely on relief food.
This is true for Fatuma Ibrahim, who has lived as a refugee since 1992. She has been growing beans and onions purposely to supplement the diet for her family and rarely has a surplus.
Mutambikwa said the project has also improved co-existence by reducing conflict between the refugees and the host community.
He expects that in coming months, more members from both sides will join the informal farming groups, and this will further boost household incomes.
‘Farming is also a legitimate business,’ said Abdi, who also acknowledged that besides learning crop husbandry from the refugees, they have also learnt about entrepreneurship.
Traditionally, the people of Garissa are pastoralists. It is common to find hundreds of goats grazing by the roadside.
In turn, the hosts have taught the refugees to keep goats. Every morning a herder moves from one homestead to the other picking the goats and taking them to the grazing fields.
For payment, he gets a ration of the relief food that each family gets from donor agencies. Every market day, the goat owners congregate at the Hagadera market where they sell their livestock.
Some also sell camels, with medium-sized ones going for Sh50,000 and bigger ones costing as much as Sh80,000.
According to Mr Mutambikwa, more support from donors is needed to increase agricultural production and livelihood opportunities for both refugees and the host community.
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.
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
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.
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.