COCO has never been about emergency aid. Our focus is long term sustainable solutions to poverty alleviation. When you prepare a project for sustainability, you consider the risks and mitigate them. We were not prepared for the impact of a pandemic but have been relatively quick to respond to the ever-changing circumstances we find ourselves in.
In Bwayi, a community in remote Western Kenya, COCO has undertaken sustainable agriculture training for a community that was previously only able to farm at a subsistence level. Unfortunately, our training has only reached some of the community members and there are many more who need to be trained. Just before the world came under lockdown, we ran our #4amfor40p appeal asking supporters to help us train women who had to get up at 4am in the hope that they would be selected to work as cheap labour on an industrial farm. The reward for their 14-hour day, the equivalent of 40 pence. Yes things in Kenya are cheaper than here, but not that cheap!
Whilst COCO might lack the influence to change government policy, we can train farmers to improve the yield from their own land so that they can eat and sell produce to meet their monetary needs. Right now, at a time when people need this knowledge most, we can’t train farmers due to social distancing rules and bans on gatherings of people. One donor asked if he could contribute to the situation in Bwayi and when we spoke to the community, what they needed most was food. This is a place that grows food for the rest of the world but the local community is going hungry.
The donation bought 8 90kg bags of maize which has been distributed to 16 vulnerable families. This will feed them for a month. The funds would have gone a lot further towards a training budget but this was a question of survival rather than sustainability. I received an email today from Isaac who runs the project;
“The situation here in Bwayi is very difficult now because people here are not working in big fields for rich people and now many families do not have an income. They are lacking basic needs especially medication for malaria and are starving due to lack of food, a prolonged dry season, and the horrible situation with COVID-19, the stay at home order, and an extended curfew. This has resulted in many vulnerable families going without food and their lives are at risk from hunger. We have many families here who urgently need malaria medication and food and we hope for the best. We must say thank you so much COCO for this great help during this difficult time and together we will win this war against COVID-19 and create more income streams for families we work with.”
I know that everyone has been tested and challenged by this pandemic and the difference one donor can make is only helping in a small way, but this gesture has ensured the survival of 16 families. I just hope that when restrictions are lifted, we can train others so that if anything like this happens again, the community of Bwayi will be better equipped to shoulder the burden.
If it is within your means to support this training so that we can give hope to this community after lockdown, please take a look at our appeal.