Around the same time as International Charity Day, we have just received the latest update from our friends at Just Small Change, a charity we have long supported.
Just Small Change works in some of the poorest parts of the world to help people escape poverty through small scale loans for business development. Not only does this help deliver a better life but does so in a way that also restores pride and purpose for the individuals and families. The following update from Coinadrink Limited is the first we have received post-Covid, so we’re happy to hear from the charity.
How has Covid affected the current project in Kisumu, Kenya?
Activity in Kisumu was severely disrupted between March 2020 and March 2021, as you would expect. No training courses could be offered, and the organisation wasn’t able to take on any new clients.
Roselyne and Emily, staff members who are based and work in Kisumu, worked tirelessly to provide support to the 308 current clients, but it was extremely tough. Whilst the region recorded few Coronavirus infections, it was still subject to restrictions which included the closure of the education and hospitality industry.
A real lack of government support for those who lost their jobs meant less spending, which in turn caused the businesses of clients to suffer. Unfortunately, many were forced to close, so clients had to suddenly explore new avenues for their livelihoods. If this wasn’t enough, overnight curfews brought an end to popular trading periods, and in one instance the local council took the opportunity to bulldoze some of the larger slum markets, destroying some traders’ stock and homes.
Mercifully, there was little sickness, but it was certainly a very challenging period.
The good – and devastatingly bad – post-Covid.
By March 2021, restrictions had eased enough so that group meetings and training sessions could restart.
It is an incredible achievement that from September 2020, a period when the pandemic was very much still ongoing, 28 existing clients have been able to repay their loans and borrow again to expand their business further. It is also great to report that Just Small Change have recently been able to take on 19 new clients, who have all received their training and their first loan back in April.
Regrettably however, it is not all good news.
The last few months have seen the pandemic take another turn for the worse in Kisumu. Whilst the country seemed to avoid the damage much of the rest of the world had encountered in 2020, this year has seen the virus spread far more rapidly. Kisumu is just one of the affected areas. It is thought that a damaging moment came on June 1st, when the President of Kenya arrived in the city to lead mass celebrations for Independence Day. This was even though cases of the Delta variant had already been discovered here.
Since then, and as many feared, Kisumu has turned into a Covid hotspot. It is with regret that the organisation sadly reported numerous deaths, with several of their clients losing their husbands and partners. Greater restrictions were quickly imposed, which included another suspension of face-to-face meetings. Whilst necessary to keep people safe, it was another devastating blow to their clients’ businesses and made it hard to earn a living. Roselyne and Emily had to abandon all group activity for one-to-one training, often over the phone.
Light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Mid-July did see the situation improve, though with an element of caution given that infection and death rates across Kisumu remained high. With the peak seemingly passed, Roselyne plans to resume training and group activity hopefully by early September 2021, when restrictions will have been removed.
Having been through their three-month probation period, which examines the spending and saving habits of potential new clients, Roselyne has 29 new recruits ready and waiting. This is positive news. Meanwhile, the cost of the loans and training for the 19 new clients we mentioned above that have already been taken on cost £1743 in total, which the organisation has been able to afford due to the fundraising and generous donations of businesses and individuals.
Their usual costs have increased across the last 18 months with new ways of communication, training, and general work, but they are very grateful to everyone who has continued to show love, care, and support during these difficult times.
It is thought that Kenya has so far administered Covid vaccines to just 2% of the population, so there is still a long way to go before the virus is under control here.
The Mali project that Just Small Change are also supporting.
Mali is a vast Sahelian country. Particularly since 2012, life is very challenging here since a coup led to fragile security across the land. Armed groups repeatedly attack UN peacekeepers, the Malian army, and even civilians. This political unrest along with rapid population group (doubling to 20 million since 1999) and climate change had led to an extreme poverty rate of 44%.
90% of these poorer people live in the densely populated but more secure, rural areas of South Mali. It is here that Just Small Change are supporting a microcredit project in the Sikasso region, which historically has produced a lot of cotton. There are lots of problems with this, however, which locals have been trying to escape from and instead move towards food production for a long time now.
Large amounts of pesticides and fertilisers are needed to grow this cotton, which means locals have been forced to indebt themselves to cotton companies for borrowing these chemicals, racking up huge sums of interest. Despite the hard work, some families are only left with around £130 a year, which is simply not enough to survive. Additionally, the fertilisers have made the land very poor for other forms of livelihoods, whilst the pesticides have latched on to the water supply and caused devastating illness for both livestock and people.
It is now one of the poorest and malnourished parts of the country.
Trying to turn to food production isn’t easy, because the land is so poor and very few people have livestock needed to enrich the soil. Just Small Change has been working on helping these people to raise goats, by loaning them enough money to buy two females. If a goat is well-kept (the locals are provided training for this) then it can give birth to one or two kids every six months. Selling these goats can help repay the loans to be regenerated to other individuals, whilst selling the milk and meat can help earn a stable income.
So far, Just Small Change has funded this project in two villages in South Mali, lending to 98 people in total. Like in Kenya, the threat of Coronavirus is very much present here, with just 1% of the country’s population vaccinated. Moving forward, Just Small Change will continue to offer support safely where they can.
Coinadrink Limited are delighted to help raise money for such a wonderful charity through the sales of our bottled water for the coolers. It’s been nice hearing from the charity post-Covid and we are happy to hear that they are ploughing on through the difficult challenges faced. You can learn more about our support for Just Small Change and other organisations here.
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