The year was a big disappointment to most coffee farmers across the country. But at the beginning of the year, there were signs of a good harvest when the long rains came early in March. This is when flowering starts, and given the way the crop had blossomed, growers anticipated a good year.
However, things changed when the rains continued longer than expected, such that, by July, the farmers hopes were shattered after diseases associated with extreme wet conditions struck.
For instance, the little-known Solai/Elgon die, was reported in Kiambu, Nyeri, Kisii, Murang’a and Nandi counties. Previously, the disease was mainly confined to Nakuru and the Mount Elgon area in Trans Nzoia County.
The more common coffee berry disease (CBD) was also reported. But unlike other years, most farmers in the Mount Kenya region complained about the agro-chemicals they use to control the spread of CBD. They lamented that the sprays were not effective.
Cooperative societies, which smallholder farmers use to market their coffee, have reported very low production, compared with other years.
At the Gatura Factory in Nyeri County, growers had delivered only 120,7227 kilos of coffee cherries by the third week of December, a the factory’s chairman, Mr Wanyaga Mutahi said, “In good season we usually register between 350,000 kilogrammes and 400,000 kilogrammes during such a period of the year,” he offered.
In some parts of the country, most farmers are staring at a crop failure.
Farmers were not sure whether the agrochemicals they use to stop the spread of the CBD was the problem. Some of the spray chemicals, they bought from different retailers worked, others did not.
So, the National Coffee Cooperative Union (NCC) — an umbrella organisation for smallholder farmers, sought an explanation from the national government.
There were suggestions that the agrochemicals should have been analysed by the Coffee Research Foundation (CRF) before being released to growers for use — as used to happen before.
But the CRF explained that it no longer gets government funding since Agriculture was devolved. And it is not the counties’ responsibility to establish whether or not an agrochemical is genuine. Besides, county governments lack the capacity to conduct such analyses.
This is an issue that was not addressed despite demands by the NCC.
Perhaps what would have brightened the farmers’ fortunes are the legal reforms developed by the Coffee Sub-Sector Implementation Committee (CSIC).
President Uhuru Kenyatta had set up the committee two years earlier to implement proposals made by a national task force he had appointed to turn around the coffee sub-sector.
First, the CSIC came up with the Coffee (General) Regulations 2016 draft, which was trashed by the officials of coffee cooperative unions. They were mainly opposed to the proposed mode of payment, whereby farmers would be paid directly through their individual accounts after their coffee is sold at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE).
After rejecting the rules in 2017, CSIC Chairman Joseph Kieyah brought in other stakeholders, apparently to find a way out.
He convened a high-level meeting of experts and governors from the 31 coffee-growing counties in January, and another with other stakeholders. He eventually came up with a revised draft, the Coffee (General) Regulations 2018, which, again, did not see the light of day. The draft is now before Parliament, awaiting debate and approval.
In the revised version, the role of a marketing agent at the NCE has been phased out. Only millers are required to grade coffee before taking it to the NCE.
It is believed that the marketers and millers worked behind the scenes to influence union officials to reject the new rules. And this is because the proposed regulations stipulated that every business transaction made by the miller at the auction must be made public.
But the committee’s term ended in October before Prof Kieyah and his team gazetted the new regulations. President Uhuru Kenyatta extended their term for the second time — for another one year. In addition, he appointed Susan Mochache, the Principal Secretary for State Department for Cooperatives, to co-chair the CSIC.
Other CSIC proposals like issuance of cheap fertilizer to farmers have been implemented. What the government is in the process of carry out is forensic audit of all the coffee cooperative unions in the country, which was also part of CSIC’s recommendation to resuscitate the ailing coffee industry.
The process has already kicked off but owing to lack of funds, the Department of Cooperative is currently conducting preliminary audit. It started with Nyeri, which was selected to pilot coffee reforms CSIC is implementing.
And the money from coffee proceeds has to be channelled directly to the grower – not through their Saccos as has been the norm.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.