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Kenya secures 205mln USD loan to contain COVID-19 pandemic

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) said on Friday it has approved 22 billion shillings (205 million U.S. dollars) loan to support Kenya’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AfDB said the loan will also help Kenya mitigate the related economic, health and social impacts.

“The next step will focus on helping build resilience for postCOVID-19,” the Bank’s acting director general for East Africa Nnenna Nwabufo said in a statement.

The lender said the loan will extend additional resources to Kenya as the country takes steps to contain the spread of the pandemic and deal with its unprecedented impact.

The bank’s intervention will also be used to support the poor and vulnerable people who have been negatively affected by the pandemic.

Since Kenya’s first COVID-19 infection was confirmed on March 13, cases have risen to 1,161, while the number of recoveries and deaths are 380 and 50, respectively, as of Friday.

Kenya says the pandemic which is placing significant pressure on an already stretched healthcare system, has disrupted supply chains and caused job losses in the tourism, hospitality, horticulture and airline industries, among others.

(XINHUA)

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Anti-COVID-19 restrictions among East Africa countries boon for Kenyan farmers

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Restriction of movement between east African countries to curb spread of COVID-19 has come as a boon for Kenyan farmers, whose produce is currently selling at a better price as food demand surges.

The restrictions have seen a decline in food imports, allowing Kenyan farmers’ produce to dominate the market.

Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have each limited movement of goods and people into and out of their borders.

While travel of people between the countries has been banned, movement of goods and cargo is allowed.

However, the transporters have to test for COVID-19 and get certificates to show they don’t have the disease.

The testing has occasioned delays, curtailing free movement of goods, thus creating a boon to Kenyan food producers.

Kenya imports a bulk of food produce from its neighbors Uganda and Tanzania. From Uganda, the country imports cereals, legumes, sugar and eggs mainly.

And from Tanzania comes fruits like oranges, lemons, pineapples and mangoes, onions, potatoes and tomatoes.

“It is a good time to be a farmer in Kenya because prices of commodities are now high due to COVID-19 restrictions. I produce eggs, at least 100 crates a day and for the first time, buyers are scrambling for them,” said Cornelius Mutuku, a farmer in Kitengela on the south of Nairobi.

Farmers growing onions and tomatoes are also enjoying the boom as imports from Tanzania remain restricted.

At Wakulima food market in the capital Nairobi, where most produce from Tanzania is usually offloaded for supply to other parts of the city, very few trucks from the country now deliver food at the market.

From about 40 trucks in a day to now less than 10 arrive daily due to the restricted movement, a trader said.

Beatrice Macharia, an agronomist with Growth Point, an agro-consultancy, observed that Kenyan farmers have been able to sustain the market amid limited imports due to good rains in the March to May season.

“The rains offered a boost in the production but in the long-term we still need the imports,” she said, adding good prices have cushioned farmer from high cost of inputs.

Kenya’s agriculture secretary Peter Munya on May 20 asked local farmers to use the window brought about constrained supply chains to reap from their ventures by supplying the market.

Kenya food imports topped 1 billion dollars in 2019, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, with the high imports blamed on erratic weather during the period.

(XINHUA)

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Kenyan farmers grapple with oscillating temperatures as climate varies

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After floods, due to heavy rains, killed at least 285 people and destroyed hundreds of acres of crops between April and May in Kenya, farmers have started to feel another pinch of climate variability.

Night and day-time temperatures in different parts of the east African nation are oscillating between too high and too low, affecting crop production.

Areas that are worst-hit include those around the capital Nairobi and in the neighbouring central and eastern regions, where most food consumed in the city is grown.

Data from the meteorological department shows that temperatures in Nairobi and surrounding areas are currently rising to a high of 27 degrees Celsius during the day and falling at night to 14 degrees Celsius, from day temperature average of 24 degrees Celsius and night 20 degrees Celsius in the past.

The fluctuation in temperatures is hurting crops, with horticultural and coffee farmers feeling much of the heat.

For tomato farmers, especially those growing the crop in the field, the cold temperatures at night have given rise to an increase in blight disease, which is destroying plants and fruits.

The increase in disease means that farmers have to spend more money on chemicals and spraying the crops pushing up the cost of production.

“Blight has become a major problem currently, especially among farmers growing tomatoes, strawberries, capsicum, chilli, potatoes and cucumbers.

The cold weather disease is attacking crops and farmers have been forced to dig deeper into their pockets to take curative measures,’’ said Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro-consultancy in Kajiado County, south of Nairobi.

The county is one of the biggest sources of food for the capital Nairobi, with most of the farmers growing crops under irrigation.

“Blight attacks leaves forming circular brown lesions and they then turn yellow and fall off.

For tomatoes, the fruits have brown marks and the inside becomes watery as they shrink,’’ she said, noting that most of the inquiries she is currently receiving are virtually about the disease.

Macharia observed that one has to spray crops like potatoes, coffee, tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum with chemicals at least twice every week when the temperatures are too low lest they die due to bacterial blight.

In the past, a cold weather would set in the east African nation in July and end in August, but for the last two years, climate variability has seen the chilly spell start in May and last over two months, giving farmers a hard time.

Chicken, goats and cattle farmers also have to contend with the cold spell that leads to rise in coccidiosis and pneumonia, which affects livestock.

Cold weather normally leads to increased cost of production because a farmer has to rely on supplemental heat, which can be from electricity or charcoal to keep the birds warmer.

Macharia noted that the variation of climate is making farming a little harder as animals and crops struggle to adjust to the infrequent weather patterns that oscillate from heavy rains, dry spell and a colder period in just a few months.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Roundup: Kenyan businesses pick up as normalcy returning amid anti-COVID-19 measures

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Small and medium-sized businesses in Kenya are registering a steady surge in activities as business picks up in the east African nation amid observation of COVID-19 containment measures.

Business is resuming as some companies that had sent their workers on leave following the outbreak of the disease in March allow them back.

Similarly, a number of people who had chosen to stay at home to enforce social distancing are resuming work as they observe measures to curb the spread of the disease.

Some of the businesses, particularly in the Nairobi city center that are registering uptick of activities, include commuter vehicles known as matatus, salons and barber shops, chemists, clothes and shoes shops, and hotels and eateries.

Banks and supermarkets, which though did not close down but had witnessed reduced activities in the last two months as people stayed away, are also registering a surge in the number of customers.

The steady resurgence in business portends bright prospects for the small and medium-sized enterprises as the east African nation battles the disease.

“We are happy that at least business is picking up,” said Andrew Mutie, who sells women shoes and clothes in central business in Nairobi.

“Most of my customers started to return to work a week ago and I am now getting orders for clothes, shoes and bags, not as it was the case for the last two months,” he added.

The return of workers in the city center has also come as a boon for hundreds of matatu operators who had been greatly affected by the stay at home measure.

Some of the matatu operators had grounded their vehicles due to low number of commuters moving from the residential areas to the city center and vice versa.

The government in March directed the commuter buses to carry half the capacity of the vehicles for passengers to maintain social distancing.

While the matatus tried to compensate the loss of income by raising the fare, low number of commuters worsened the situation.

“More people are coming to the city center which assures us business both in the morning, during the day and the evening. Though the curfew time is affecting business, things are improving,” said Geoffrey Muriuki, a conductor with Rembo Shuttle on the Kitengela-Nairobi route.

A survey in the capital Nairobi on Thursday indicated that the number of people visiting various businesses is on the rise, with hotels and eateries, banks and supermarkets being among the top beneficiaries of the resurgence.

At an eatery on Kimathi Street in the central business district of Nairobi, several customers sat at different tables observing social distancing as they ate their food.

The facility, like some others in Nairobi, started in-service over a week ago after testing all its workers for COVID-19 as directed by the government.

“People are coming back, especially this week, there has been good traffic but we have to maintain social distance,” said Jane, a waiter at the outlet.

Ernest Manuyo, a lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, noted that people are resuming activities as they observe containment measures as reality dawns that they must learn to live with the virus around.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has hinted at reopening the economy from next month when the period of the current dusk to dawn curfew ends.

Central Bank of Kenya governor Patrick Njoroge observed that he expects resumption of normalcy in various sectors from June.

“Cessations of some restrictions especially in sectors like hospitality have helped boost business and we expect next month business to surge further. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, so it is a good thing if activities resume,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Kenyan farmers grapple with oscillating temperatures as climate varies

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After floods due to heavy rains killed at least 285 people and destroyed hundreds of acres of crops between April and May in Kenya, farmers have started to feel another pinch of climate variability.

Night and day-time temperatures in different parts of the east African nation are oscillating between too high and too low, affecting crop production.

Areas that are worst-hit include those around the capital Nairobi and in the neighboring central and eastern regions, where most food consumed in the city is grown.

Data from the meteorological department shows that temperatures in Nairobi and surrounding areas are currently rising to a high of 27 degrees Celsius during the day and falling at night to 14 degrees Celsius, from day temperature average of 24 degrees Celsius and night 20 degrees Celsius in the past.

The fluctuation in temperatures is hurting crops, with horticultural and coffee farmers feeling much of the heat.

For tomato farmers, especially those growing the crop in the field, the cold temperatures at night have given rise to an increase in blight disease, which is destroying the plant and the fruits.

The increase in disease means that farmers have to spend more money on chemicals and spraying the crops pushing up the cost of production.

“Blight has become a major problem currently especially among farmers growing tomatoes, strawberries, capsicum, chilli, potatoes and cucumbers. The cold weather disease is attacking crops and farmers have been forced to dig deeper into their pockets to take curative measures,” said Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro-consultancy in Kajiado County, south of Nairobi.

The county is one of the biggest sources of food for the capital Nairobi, with most of the farmers growing crops under irrigation.

“Blight attacks leaves forming circular brown lesions and they then turn yellow and fall off. For tomatoes, the fruits have brown marks and the inside becomes watery as they shrink,” she said, noting that most of the inquiries she is currently receiving virtually are about the disease.

Macharia observed that one has to spray crops like potatoes, coffee, tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum with chemicals at least twice every week when the temperatures are too low lest they die due to bacterial blight.

In the past, a cold weather would set in the east African nation in July and end in August, but for the last two years, climate variability has seen the chilly spell start in May and last over two months, giving farmers a hard time.

Chicken, goats and cattle farmers also have to contend with the cold spell that leads to rise in coccidiosis and pneumonia, which affects livestock.

Cold weather normally leads to increased cost of production because a farmer has to rely on supplemental heat which can be from electricity or charcoal to keep the birds warmer.

Macharia noted that the variation of climate is making farming a little harder as animals and crops struggle to adjust to the infrequent weather patterns that oscillate from heavy rains, dry spell and a colder period in just a few months.

(XINHUA)

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Feature: Kenyan young learner stitching face masks to boost fight against COVID-19

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Joseph Mwalo, a 13-year-old middle school pupil from Western Kenya has earned rock star status thanks to his prowess in sewing face masks that are on high demand as the fight against COVID-19 gains steam.

Since the government ordered the closure of schools to help contain the spread of the disease, Mwalo has kept himself busy with the stitching work to help fellow citizens access the vital protective gear.

Though Mwalo has never attended a fashion and design class, he has been copying the skills from his father Daniel Ondito and has since churned out hundreds of face coverings.

According to Mwalo, when the government announced that the virus had been detected in the country and that Kenyans should embrace health regulations, he approached his father and sold the idea of making face masks.

“I had brought my father an item he had sent me when a customer who wanted his clothes repaired arrived wearing the mask. I keenly looked at the mask and later I asked my father to allow me try to make similar one for myself,” Mwalo said.

It took him three days to come with the final product to the admiration of his father.

After I made the first mask, my father was excited and he asked to make more for the family,” said Mwalo.

At one time, two neighbors who were impressed by the boy’s tailoring skill placed orders for masks for their respective families.

He informed his father about the orders before his farther supported him to secure raw materials to make the masks. Unlike repairing or making new clothes, Mwalo says, stitching a mask is a laborious task.

“Materials are expensive and one has to employ enough skills to cut them into the sizes required because you do not take measurement of customers before you make the masks,” said Mwalo

He said that before sewing the masks, he washes his hands and disinfect the work station to ensure the product is not contaminated by the virus.

A few displays he had made attracted many customers to buy his products and this has improved his father’s income.

Mwalo’s lifelong dream is to become a civil engineer but his latest decision to venture into the art of sewing face masks was motivated by a desire to save his compatriots from a global pandemic.

(XINHUA)

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Kenya to enforce ban on single-use plastics in protected areas

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The ban on single-use plastics in Kenya’s biodiversity hotspots including wildlife sanctuaries, wetlands, forests and beaches will be enforced on June 5 in line with a presidential directive, the ministry of tourism and wildlife said on Saturday.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the ban on single-use plastics in protected natural habitats during the 2019 World Environment Day.

Kenyatta said the ban will help minimize pollution of protected areas and restore their ecological dignity in line with domestic and international statutes.

He said that outlawing use of single-use plastics in pristine landscapes that are home to iconic plant and animal species, will be a boon to Kenya’s green agenda and human health.

“The ban underlines the government’s commitment in addressing the plastic pollution menace, in line with the various legal provisions on waste management and conservation of the natural resources and ecosystems, as well as Kenya’s milestones in achieving Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” said the ministry in a statement.

The ministry of tourism and wildlife will be the lead agency that will oversee enforcement of the ban on single-use plastic carrier bags and bottles in protected areas.

Najib Balala, cabinet secretary for tourism and wildlife in February said the decision to ban single-use plastics in protected areas was reached after extensive consultation with key stakeholders like manufacturers.

He said that littering of non-biodegradable material in wildlife sanctuaries presented a serious risk to the health of iconic species that are part of Kenya’s heritage.

(XINHUA)

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UN releases 3 mln USD to aid 302,000 flood victims in Kenya

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The United Nations has released 3 million U.S. dollars in emergency funds to aid almost 302,000 flood victims in Kenya, a UN spokesman said on Friday.

“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that seasonal heavy rains have affected nearly 302,000 people in 43 of the 47 counties,” said UN secretary-general’s deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund allocated the 3 million U.S. dollars to support humanitarian partners, providing shelter, food, water, sanitation and health services to the affected population, Haq said. Emergency shelter and non-food items have been distributed to over 5,600 households.

The Kenya Red Cross Society said that over 211,000 people are displaced from their homes, up from 116,000 at the beginning of the month. Nearly 27,000 livestock have been lost and over 30,000 acres of crops submerged, increasing the risk of food insecurity across the country.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: COVID-19 outbreak brings out Kenya’s manufacturing potential

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Kenya’s potential as a manufacturing hub has come out during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the east African nation manufacturing a number of things that initially were imported.

With international trade stifled due to restrictions by various countries to curb the spread of the disease, the east African nation looked inwards, turning to its nascent industries to produce some basic items that were in short supply.

The result is that the country has been able to produce personal protective gears used by frontline medical workers, face masks and shields, ventilators, sanitizers and non-contact COVID-19 testing machines and hand washing gadgets.

Most of the items including face masks and sanitizers were in short supply at the outbreak of the pandemic in March.

However, increased local production has seen supply rise exponentially, stabilizing prices. While some of the gadgets are being made by big manufacturers, others are being manufactured at the local level by artisans.

Leading at the grassroots’ manufacturing are Kenyan tailors and welders, the former having made thousands of masks that have saturated the market.

The east African nation had initially suffered acute shortage of imported masks at the outbreak of the disease.

The tailors have moved from making ordinary masks to designer products that many Kenyans are moving to so that they stand out as they battle the disease.

Collins Okoth, a tailor in Kitengela, south of Nairobi, is among hundred of others making the face masks.

“I started with ordinary masks from cotton material but I have now switched to using hard materials like jeans fabric and making gadgets that cover the entire face depending on what one wants,” he said on Friday, adding he is emblazoning the masks with people’s names.

The need to wash hands at business points to curb the spread of the disease grew due to disease outbreak, but some Kenyans were avoiding to wash hands for fear of touching taps.

Innovative artisans have solved the problem by making contactless handwashing machines that have come in handy, boosting hand washing at public places.

Similarly, artisans have made contactless COVID-19 testing booths that have reduced the use of personal protective equipment.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers last month unveiled a prototype of a ventilator dubbed PumuaIshi 2.0, whose production is underway in the east African nation in what portends industrial breakthrough, according to Industrialization secretary Betty Maina.

Maina noted local manufacturers have shown that they can make and deliver critical items, which enables them to compete regionally and globally.

On Thursday, health cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe noted that Kenya is no longer importing personal protective gears but making them locally and exporting the surplus to neighboring countries.

“The gears are no longer a hindrance in testing and treating COVID-19. We are currently importing only testing reagents, some which must be sourced from countries where the machines were made,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Kenyan county steps up measures to contain cholera

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Health authorities in Kenya’s Turkana County said they had stepped up preventive measures to contain an outbreak of cholera, which had so far left one dead and 17 others hospitalized.

Kenya’s health authorities had so far reported 13 deaths due to cholera outbreak – 12 in Marsabit and one in Turkana counties.

Turkana County government and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had rolled out a partnership to contain the disease in the area.

Turkana County governor Josphant Nanok said that 12 people were discharged on Wednesday while five others are still in hospital.

He said that since the two first cases were reported on May 6, health partners including UNHCR have been collaborating with county government to control the situation.

“To contain the situation, we have intensified hygiene education, deployed public health officers to ensure residents maintain hygiene, and boosted access to clean water,” Nanok said.

(XINHUA)

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