Grasping at the opportunities created by COVID-19

The global human tragedy that has been brought about by the coronavirus pandemic is clear and unnerving. However, as Martin Luther King rightfully put it, ‘Every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. Each can spell either salvation or doom.’

Since March when the first COVID-19 case was reported in Kenya, the Skills for Life (S4L) project has been engaging different stakeholders to ensure that its project beneficiaries operating in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement are supported along the areas of income generation. With several businesses facing low returns and others winding down, the project has taken the mantle to identify potential collaboration areas with the local county government around Turkana West and other development partners for the improved well-being of its beneficiaries.

We realise that we can only defeat this pandemic if we work together – all of us,” remarked Joseph Lenakiyo, the S4L Technical Skills Coordinator.

In this regard, the project has been successful on two fronts:

Skills Upgrading Training. In May, in close collaboration with GIZ, the project conducted a skill upgrading training for 16 (12 women and 8 refugees) group member representatives whose skills were enhanced in the production of sanitizers and handwash soaps. These 16 group member representatives were previous beneficiaries of the S4L project where they attained basic training on soap and detergent making. They are expected to train their group members on the new skill and in turn collectively produce 640 litres - 300 litres of sanitizers and 340 litres of handwash soaps. These products will be distributed for free to residents of Turkana West Sub-county, including the refugee communities with the support of the Turkana County Government. Swisscontact was responsible for gathering all group member representatives from past training sessions. At the same time, GIZ took up the financial costs related to the exercise, i.e. providing the training materials, paying the trainer and buying the final products from the different groups for the free distribution. It is important to note that the engaged S4L business group members will all increase their incomes as a result of this initiative since all properly produced sanitizers and handwash soaps will be purchased.

Referrals and linkages with potential markets. Another set of project beneficiaries gained from the collaboration efforts between Swisscontact and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IRC). Four tailors working as individual entrepreneurs were referred for a job that involved the production of bed covers for Kakuma Refugee Camp General Hospital, which is managed by IRC. From the four referrals, Kadanga Noella Batachoka, a refugee from DR Congo was selected and awarded the contract where she is expected to produce 50 bed cover pieces. Furthermore, interested trained tailors have been supported in applying for sub-contracts for the production of cloth face masks to be supplied to the local county government at a fee.