Continuation of the blog post „Research abroad vs. COVID19“

KenyaNairobi / Germany, Göttingen: Albert Nsengu M., 30, Postgraduate Student at University Goettingen

Albert Nsengu M.
Albert Nsengu M.

As days passed the numbers increased and we were caught in this pandora’s box of going out for pre-test or staying indoors for self-quarantine. The government had not decided on a lockdown yet so we went ahead and trained our teams of enumerators ready for work in the coming weeks.

Such a great team we have we said to each other, my partner could not believe how lucky we were to have such an industrious

and outgoing team. They were quick to grasp tasks, vocal with great input and motivated to execute the research work. 

As finance matters, we had already done our Hotel bookings for the planned lifelong period and costs were already running. Little did we know that we won’t be able to go to the fields as planned. 

In the neighbouring regions of Nairobi Country to the north lies the evergreen Kiambu County. A vibrant county that fuels Nairobi’s workforce and the region we intended to carry most of our data collection form due to the high Agri-Entrepreneurship skills besides most households being small scale farmers. 

Kiambu region is a community that economically depends on its vegetable production, tea and coffee being the main crop. With close to 12 million inhabitants Nairobi provides a stable market for the produce from Kiambu County with close to less than a few Kilometer to cover farmers get their produce to the high-end markets in Nairobi. 

After one or two weeks the travel restrictions reached Kenya and a lockdown was looming. On the wake of a new week as we planned to start visiting households, the government announced a countrywide curfew for two weeks. This meant no movement from 7 pm until dawn at 5 am. We had only day time to run our errands but this would turn to be a great step towards controlling the spread of the virus as most of the people in Kenya spend the evenings in social gatherings and entertainments grabbing a ‚Tusker baada ya Kazi‘ they call it.  

For sure this is a land of Hakuna Matata we told ourselves, with the restaurants still operational and numbers as low as 20 Covid-19 patients, with only 1 death in two weeks we were sure it would be contained soon.
We decided to work from home and better our research tools, besides visiting a few friends and restaurants to kill the boredom. This did not last long, after a few days the lockdown was announced and hotels and restaurants all expected to close, only shopping malls would operate. 

It was now clear that we won’t go to the fields until the cases are controlled. My cry was now turned to the poorer of the poor who can not afford a total lockdown and a curfew at the same time. The ghettos of Nairobi house over a million inhabitants relying heavily on daily wages. Research tells us that these families live on 1Euro a day on average and mostly not from saving but earned on the same day.

For sure with less or no savings these people would not survive a 2-week full lockdown if the government does not intervene and distribute food to these households. 

Albert Nsengu Muremyi is a Graduate Research Assistant at Georg-August-University, Goettingen (Germany) - Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development

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