Increasing resilience in the face of skyrocketing costs

In the last few years Kenya has seen a 70 percent drop in crop production, with an estimated 3.1m people in acute hunger, now in need of aid. As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the situation has worsened, with disruption to global supply chains causing the price of grains, oil, gas, and fertiliser to skyrocket.

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa CEO, Albert Wambugu, explains how the country’s poorest are bearing the brunt of the crisis – and how Hand in Hand is supporting its members on the ground.

Poor yields and food insecurity

“There are a number of reasons why crop production is falling overall in Kenya,” Albert explains. “Growing conditions here are extremely variable. You might have pockets where the land is fertile – and then areas where the soil quality is degraded, and rainfall is low.”

Maize is the country’s staple crop – but soil degradation and drought is affecting the ‘breadbasket’ regions where it is grown. Some of the commercial fertilisers used here are extremely acidic, and have damaged the soil. Albert says: “When the crops fail, people become reliant on food aid. Some families survive on as little as 2kg of maize a week,” Albert says.

Ukraine war causes price rises for staple goods

Because of the crisis in Ukraine, Kenyans are seeing price rises across the board. “The increasing price of fuel is very noticeable,” says Albert. “There’s been a 30% increase in less than one year.”

People in poverty spend a greater percentage of their income on food. For the very poorest, food price increases will result in adults skipping meals, or subsisting only on staples. “Cooking oil has doubled in price. When costs go up like this, the only thing people can focus on is putting food on the table. You would not be able to afford a balanced diet,” says Albert. “Protein from fish, for example, would be inconceivable.”

Cost of living increases can impact members’ enterprises too. Albert explains it’s almost impossible for people to prioritize saving when times are tough, or to spare the funds to invest money back into their businesses.

Strengthening resilience

To combat the hunger crisis, Albert’s team provide training on a range of sustainable farming techniques that improve soil quality as well as increasing yields.

“We tell our members there will always be things outside your sphere of influence, like supply chain volatility and weather changes. But there are things you can do to offset these – like crop diversification, or by using fertiliser that improves the soil instead of harming it. When you don’t know when the next rainfall will be, even something as simple as a water storage butt makes a difference. We teach people to adapt to their environment. Root crops like arrowroot contain more starch than maize and are easier to grow, so it might be a question of changing your dietary habits.”

They also focus on improving members’ financial resilience.

“We train people to set aside some of their income where possible, because savings are an important way of mitigating the impact of financial shocks. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, and now with the Ukraine crisis, this is vital. More recently, we have introduced our members to insurance. Only 3% of Kenyans have insurance,” Albert explains. “So we are working with providers to create new financial products that meet our members’ specific needs”

The team also encourage people to save in self-help groups. “When self-help groups are strong they can lend when things aren’t going well and, unlike some banks, don’t charge exorbitant rates of interest.”

Despite the challenging circumstances, Albert believes that the team at Hand in Hand Eastern Africa will continue to make a difference to the women they work with – and alleviate food insecurity.

“By giving women the tools they need to lift themselves and their families out of extreme poverty, we are able to strengthen their resilience so they can weather this global crisis.”

“The farmers we train will also have an important role to play in safeguarding food security within their communities, as well as restoring the soil so it remains productive for future generations.”

 

Boeing to transform the lives of 1,620 entrepreneurs in Tanzania with Hand in Hand International

Boeing and Hand in Hand have been teaming up since 2018 to help communities in Tanzania work their way out of poverty and start businesses – transforming thousands of lives in the process.

By 2023, Boeing and Hand in Hand will have trained more than 3,400 women and young entrepreneurs, creating more than 3,000 jobs and delivering long term economic impact for families and communities.

Launched in January 2021, the latest Boeing – Hand in Hand project trains farmers in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania as agri-entrepreneurs, raising incomes and protecting the local environment in the fight against climate change. By extending the project for an additional 12-months, Boeing will support the training of a further 720 community members, reaching 1,620 entrepreneurs in total – 90 percent of them women.

Members of the project will become specialists in regenerative agriculture, an approach to farming that takes carbon out of the air and puts it back into the soil, improving both yields and the local environment.

By the time their training in areas such as composting, crop diversification and livestock management is complete, project members are expected to see an average 25 percent boost in income – money that will help fund education, healthcare and improved nutrition for more than 4,500 women, men and children.

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “We feel privileged and committed to continue our partnership with Hand in Hand in Tanzania. Boeing’s sustained involvement and long-term investment in local communities represents one of the many steps we take together to connect the world and make it a better place for future generations.”

Jane Sabuni, Tanzania Country Manager for Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, said: “With Boeing’s help, farmers’ plots are transitioning from surviving to thriving. The regenerative agriculture techniques they adopt are increasing women’s incomes and the productivity of their farms. As a result, we are seeing greener lands, improved food security and brighter futures for their families.”

Dorothea Arndt, Hand in Hand International CEO, said: “Something special is happening in rural Tanzania: a revolution that will help some of the world’s poorest women climb their way out of poverty as agri-entrepreneurs, even while they fight back against climate change. Our sincere thanks to Boeing for making it possible.”

1,620 community members trained

1,134 small businesses launched

Average 25 percent increases in net enterprise income

Why Tanzania?

The World Bank 2019 Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment reports that 26.4 percent of people in Tanzania live in poverty, whereas eight percent live in extreme poverty. The situation today is worse, as communities globally were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

With so many people living in poverty, 79 percent of poor Tanzanians depend on agriculture. The majority of households rely on subsistence farming – which is rain-fed – for survival, growing a limited number of crops. Climate change aggravates the situation, threatening livelihoods and food security. It is estimated that approximately 60 percent of Tanzania is semi-arid or arid. Often, long dry spells occur during the growing season to the extent that crop and pasture production becomes poor.

Many practices viewed as mitigating climate change can actually harm local ecosystems, creating further problems. For example, sustainable intensification of agriculture – where farmers seek to maximise production in a condensed area – can involve an intense use of chemicals and synthetic fertilisers. This produces unequal yields and risks damaging community water sources. Monoculture approaches – that focus on the cultivation of a single crop at a time in a plot and emphasise the heavy use of fertilisers through short-term subsidies – similarly deplete land through the reuse of soil.

What’s next?

Based in the communities they serve, Hand in Hand trainers continue to recruit and train project members in subjects ranging from business to regenerative agriculture. Access to credit from external, pro-poor lenders and links to larger markets so members can sustainably sell their produce soon follow.

After project members complete their 12-month training – a timeframe which, for the first cohort of members, began in March 2021 – members will move from fortnightly sessions to monthly check-ins with trainers. These visits keep enterprises on track for sustainable growth and ensure external credit is being repaid. Members will also be encouraged to form larger producers’ groups to benefit from economies of scale and better market access.