Coronavirus update: the next phase

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Laurent Munyankusi, Ripple Effect's acting Country Director in Rwanda reflects on our response to the pandemic across rural Africa and explains how we're moving forward on to our next phase.

What we’ve done so far

Firstly, thank you for your support through these strange times. In April, we released our first statement as we first began to plan our emergency response, then again in June as cases began to rise across rural Africa.

We continued to adapt the way we work with our target community groups – giving them greater training in hygiene and sanitation, whilst helping to spread the messages of coronavirus prevention to rural and remote areas. We reached out to the most vulnerable in society, offering a safety net where there was otherwise none or insufficient. Never has our work been more important.

The challenge now

You may have seen the official number of COVID-19 cases in Africa is much lower than in Europe or the US. But we don’t want those figures to mislead you – the impact is great. For the millions of farming families in rural Africa, this is far more than a health crisis. This is a socio-economic crisis and we need to treat it like one, else this challenge could have life-threatening impacts for generations to come.

Ripple Effect was created in the spirit of practical solutions to overcoming adversity. Our founding farmers, faced with having to slaughter healthy cattle, were radical – they flew some of their cows to Uganda where they could give vulnerable families the ability to change their lives. Then when the BSE crisis hit in the mid-90s, we had adapted to the challenge – breeding livestock locally and exploring how we could better support families through improved sustainable agriculture farming practices, social development and enterprise.

We are at a juncture once again. The need remains great; but our work must change, and we are committed to supporting and protecting our communities as best we can. Families who have already overcome so much are now facing the extra threat of coronavirus and the economic impacts of lockdown and related limited movement of people and goods. The World Bank predicts that COVD-19 could push another 71 million people into extreme poverty this year alone.

We know farmers who have been forced to sell their animals or land, consume their savings, whose businesses are no longer viable due to travel being restricted and markets closed, and many instances where domestic violence and social problems have sadly increased. We cannot let our farmers – who have worked so hard - fall back to a life of poverty and despair. We must COVID-proof our projects.

We cannot let our farmers – who have worked so hard - fall back to a life of poverty and despair. We must COVID-proof our projects.
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“I have helped families stay safe and healthy by demonstrating how to build a tip tap and the importance of washing hands frequently with soap and water.”

Margaret A volunteer in Kenya

Our next phase: COVID-proofing our projects

By remaining in regular contact with project participants during lockdown (by phone when not possible in person), our teams have conducted a rapid needs assessment, involving 650 respondents across Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Whilst we can now build COVID-proofing into our new projects, our country programme teams have identified 12 ongoing projects that are vulnerable. Without making adaptions, we risk not being able to achieve the long-lasting impact they deserve.

We will continue to maintain a strong focus on sanitation and community awareness, but we must also look more long-term at what our families need to keep them safe. So, our emphases will also be on the following:
  • Food security – With children remaining at home from school and family members back from cities, there is an increased demand of food, fuel and water at home. We are adapting training schedules, with appropriate precautions, to prioritise post-harvest crop management to boost food stores, extend keyhole garden training so families can grow their own food, distribute seeds and improve access to safe water.
  • Resilient livelihoods – The pandemic has made it difficult for our farmers to access markets and food prices are on the increase. We are working to encourage new enterprise activities such as mask-making and soap-making and continue to support local Savings and Loans Assosications which have proved invaluable across rural communities.
  • Improved household relations – Lockdown has put families under intense pressure and the stress of an unpredictable future has pushed some into conflict with incidences of domestic violence. We are scaling up our Transformative Household Methodology to enable family members-wide conversations, improve communication and resolve potential conflict.
Why Ripple Effect? Why now?

One of the reasons we are so proud to work for Ripple Effect, is how trusted our programmes are in the countries where we work, and how trusted our project workers are by the communities.

As the world unites to fight coronavirus, we are working to ensure that the most vulnerable don’t get left behind.