A Friend Indeed

Kingwal Wetland Field Assistant Eva Bii, left, shares soap, handwash and masks with members of communities where we work. Our entire Kenya team – Maurice Wanjala, Dr. Joseph Mwangi, Eva, Damaris Kisha and Vivian Nekesa – participated in the COVID-19 supplies distribution.

Like a devastating bushfire, the COVID-19 pandemic has spread with alarming speed, unleashing both an economic and health crisis, unlike any experienced in the last century. In March this year, Kenya reported its first case of COVID-19. The pandemic is much more than a health crisis, as it is affecting the socio-economic life of every individual and country. The number of reported infections in Kenya is still rising, attributed to, among others, poverty, poor access to essential services such as clean water and sanitation, and poor hygiene practices. Measures put forward by the government to curb the spread of the virus have focused on ensuring basic hygiene and social distancing, requiring every individual to wash hands frequently, sanitize and wear masks in public places.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~ Nelson Mandela.

As currently being observed, disruptions caused by COVID-19 interventions create a significant reduction in household revenue to an already vulnerable society living under the poverty line. More than 80% of the community members we work with rely on subsistence farming and live from hand to mouth, barely earning enough to feed their families each day. Talking to the community members, most argue that hunger may kill them before coronavirus does. For these communities that we work with, access to soap and masks is necessary for them, but not a priority. The availability of these resources is limited. They would rather focus on finding money to buy food, as the pandemic has interfered in the demand-supply chain, and the prices of food commodities have gone up.

“How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time.” ~ Morgan Freeman

We chose to work with these groups because cranes flock, nest, roost and breed on their farms. Therefore, we needed to do something for these communities that live in rural areas and have unstable incomes. Through the generous support of the Leiden Conservation Foundation, the Kenyan team was able to procure face masks, handwash and soap bars that we distributed to the households of individuals we signed Conservation Agreement with, and custodians outside the Conservation Agreement process. Each household received two bars of soap, two handwashes and seven masks. With the help of the group leaders, we were able to coordinate the exercise and reach the community in their homes via house to house distribution, as there is a restriction on gatherings.

The Grey Crowned Crane is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Endangered species. The species’ population is estimated to have declined from over 100,000 individuals in 1985 to between 17,700 and 23,000 by 2016 (Birdlife International 2016; Morrison, 2015). The population of the species in Kenya stands at 7,776 (Wamiti et al., 2020). The Africa Crane Conservation Programme works under the International Crane Foundation and Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership to conserve the Grey Crowned Crane species in Kenya. The Grey Crowned Crane faces several threats, the main one being habitat loss, which is fueled by population pressure.

Story submitted by Vivian Nekesa, Western Kenya Field Officer. Click here to learn more about our work in Sub-Saharan Africa.