Sometime in late 1990s, Nasoro Mohammed joined the fishing industry; then the trade was promising as the daily catch was big.
Fishing was the backbone of his Kibuyuni village as it fed and employed several locals and their families.
“But that is no longer the case and we have to change with the tide,” he said at KICC, Nairobi recently, where Seeds of Gold met him during the blue economy conference.
Nasoro is now a seaweed farmer, and together with other villagers, they have formed Kibuyuni seaweed group, through which they make soaps, soap noodles and oil and shampoos from the sea algae.
With marine life plummeting by the day, coastal communities that initially depended on the Indian Ocean for money, employment and food are increasingly becoming vulnerable and frustrated, forcing them to look for alternative livelihoods.
Besides filling the fisheries gap, cultivating seaweed is widely perceived as one of the most environmentally friendly types of aquaculture, as it does not require additional feed or fertilisers.
Nasoro survived as a fisherman for over a decade before quitting the trade in 2007 due to dwindling fish stocks.
About that time, seaweed farming was catching up in Kibuyuni, so he joined the algae farming bandwagon to make ends meet.
Kibuyuni Seaweed Farmers group has 125 members — 70 women and 55 men — who not only grow and sell dried seaweeds but have also invested in seaweed value addition.
“We have benefited a great deal from the venture. Two months ago we sold 93 tonnes of the weed and made Sh2 million,” said Nasoro, the project coordinator, adding that the farming has offered many of them a new lifeline.
While the weeds are marketed through the group, every farmer has their own block where they grow and tend the weeds to maturity. Once harvested, the weeds are dried and aggregated at a centre for sale.
The group, which primarily works as a farmers’ co-operative, enables members achieve the bulk needed by the buyer.
“Even though the blocks are owned by individual farmers, we encourage them to involve their families in the farming to minimise workload,” Nasoro said.
The weed is vegetatively propagated so farmers replant part of their harvest.
Others get seedlings from Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kemfri) at the Coast.
Introduced in the Island of Zanzibar in 1988, seaweed farming has grown into an industry offering sustainable employment in developing and emerging economies. Zanzibar is currently the East African market for the weeds.
The idea of seaweed farming was introduced to the Kenyan coastal communities by Kemfri in 2006.
Farmers were trained and empowered to grow the seaweeds of the eucheumoid algae varieties.
Fatuma Mohammed, the chairperson of the Kibuyuni group, explains that to grow the weed, it is tied in a straight rope that can hold 49-50 seedlings at ago on the seabed.
Unlike growing crops on land where inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides are required, seaweed farming only needs the ocean water. Once planted, the weeds mature after 45 days.
Close monitoring is also done to clean and tighten the ropes as well as replace those washed away or unhooked by tides.
“Harvesting is done by ripping off mature weeds from the ropes and loading them for drying in an open space for about three to four days,” said Mohammed, adding that other than cosmetics, fresh weeds can be used as food salads or for making juice.
Nasoro says soap making involves mixing water, ground seaweed powder, coconut oil, caustic soda and essential oils, a work which is done using a machine.
“Those involved in soap-making must be thorough trained so that they know the right proportions to use.”
They sell a kilo of the weed at Sh22 to a Tanzanian firm known as Zanzibar Seaweed Corporation and a soap at Sh150.
However, the farmers noted that back in 2015, a kilo of the weeds sold at Sh30 a kilo, but the prices have dropped lately.
Last month, Fatuma harvested and sold three tonnes of the weeds at Sh22.
“Our biggest challenge is the market for our cosmetics. We are yet to break even as much as we are trying to push our products,” she said.
Patrick Mathendu, a researcher at Kemfri, noted that seaweed soaps have medicinal properties that help smoothen and heal the skin.
Other than their economical use, the weeds which can grow rapidly and efficiently, provide plant-based proteins and show promise as a source of biofuel to replace fossil fuels.
Nutritionally, the weeds are a good source of omega 3 and vitamins A, C, E and K, along with folate, zinc, sodium, calcium and magnesium.
Gabriel Rugalema, Food and Agriculture Organisation country director, says they are keen to provide technical and financial support to different countries to support fisheries and blue economy.
“We have been working with farmers in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties to harness ocean fish farming, crabs and shrimp farming, milk fish farming as well as seaweed farming,” Rugalema said.
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.