So many people ask me if I plan to return soon to Kenya. The truth is, I want to get back as soon as possible. However, due to COVID-19, there are so many considerations. For now, I am being very cautious, trying to do my part by following all the recommended protocols to contain the virus not only for the health and safety of my family and friends, but also so I will feel safe to go back.
Although Constance and I have no idea when we can return, the SANGO-Kenya team continues to move forward. We are working with our colleagues in Kenya to evaluate the pilot and plan for the next phase, which we are targeting for January 2021. Like any start-up, it takes time and commitment to launch and become truly sustainable.
We hear in all our conversations that the community is waiting for us to come back. They want to teach their neighbors the sustainable farming methods they learned from our agricultural advisor Dominick. According to our evaluation results, they want to increase the amount of farmland dedicated to the African indigenous vegetables planted in the program so they can have more to eat and sell.
COVID-19 has made farming more difficult. According to a recent article in an agricultural journal on a study highlighting the struggles facing Kenyan farmers, nearly nine out of ten Kenyan farmers said their financial situation is now worse because of COVID-19. Two thirds of study participants were smallholder farmers just like those with whom we work in SANGO-Kenya.
The New York Times has reported that Kenya is one of 11 African countries where, though food is available in local markets, prices are up and incomes are down.
The higher food prices and lower income are already having an impact on food and nutrition security for the families participating in SANGO-Kenya, especially the children. The mothers are reporting that it is more difficult to find fresh vegetables and fruits in the market and the prices are higher.
Children’s nutrition is one of the key driving factors behind SANGO-Kenya. One of the most problematic outcomes of undernutrition in children is stunting, a term used to describe a child who has achieved less than the average height for a child their age, based on global data from the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition to physical impairment, stunting is associated with cognitive impairment – deficiencies that last throughout a lifetime, hindering education and future work and income.
In the area where we work, fewer than one in five (17.5%) children 6-23 months old eat at the minimum frequency recommended for their age groups, and more than one out of every four children (26.3%) children under five are stunted. In my family, that would mean one of my stepchildren and at least one of my grandchildren would likely be stunted.
Undernutrition also increases the rates of infection. Where we work is a malaria hot zone. When I was there earlier this year, every week at least one of the farmers, one of our staff, or members of their families would come down with a new case of malaria. Malaria affects not only health, but also results in lost work and income. And some strains are more dangerous than others, requiring hospitalization and can be fatal.
Increasing food and nutrition security is imperative for the health and well-being of the children, their households, and their communities.
These smiles…who wouldn’t want to go back and see these smiles again.
Photos: ©2020 Etan Rozin for SANGO-Kenya, Inc. www.rozinphotos.com
COVID-19 has made SANGO-Kenya’s work helping ensure the nutrition, health, and welfare of our farmers and their children all the more important. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today to help us continue providing agricultural and nutrition training and support to improve their lives.
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