As the economic effects of Covid-19 become increasingly severe, communities are hard-pressed to find innovative ways to stay afloat, with individuals adapting their skills to meet demand for sanitary and protective items in the form of soaps and facemasks respectively. For residents of conflict-prone areas such as Turkana the challenge is two- fold, dealing not only with the constant threat of violent eruptions, but also with diseases such as Covid-19, a new and deadly global pandemic, and cholera. The risk of unrest complicates livelihoods, thus the need to continually promote both peace and business.
The Selam Ekisil (SEEK) project through its consortium partner, Sustainable Approaches for Community Empowerment (SAPCONE), directly promotes local economies through purchase and distribution of locally made facemasks and soaps. This coordinated response is made possible largely through established peacebuilding networks, aided by boundary partners who act as change agents in the community.
Lowarengak village in Turkana North, which boasts the biggest population of fisher folk along Lake Turkana, is an emerging trade hub supporting diverse businesses from far and wide, but most importantly, from right within. Such is the experience of 38-year-old Mariana Emoru, a local with a booming business amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Mariana earned skills in sewing and beadwork from a vocational training institute – the only formal education she has had – which she is now putting to use by producing facemasks for sale in her village.
With an impressive output of at least 50 masks an hour, Mariana is easily able to meet demand for masks within her village and beyond. She has so far produced over 20,000 masks, all of which were bought by SEEK, and distributed to the residents of Lowarengak.
Elsewhere in Nabute village, Turkana Central, members of ERUKO self-help group are a happy lot thanks to SEEK purchasing over 1,000 half-litre containers of liquid soap from them, for use at installed hand washing stations and distribution to neighbouring areas of Turkana north, Kibish and parts of Ethiopia.
SEEK, in collaboration with cross-border local authorities, is committed to continued support for Covid-19 mitigation interventions that enhance livelihoods in conflict-prone communities.
Funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the Selam Ekisil (SEEK) project adopts a conflict system-based approach to address the multiple causes of conflict in cross border areas and to promote peace building, conflict management, and conflict resolution capacity at the community and cross border levels. To enhance sustainability and ownership, SEEK interventions are implemented together with local government agencies, women leaders, religious leaders, security forces and the private sector – those who have the greatest capacity for managing conflicts and promoting peace after the life of the project.
Lead photo: Mariana sews face masks for sale in her village, Loarengak, in Turkana County. She has so far produced 20,000 face masks for purchase and distribution by SAPCONE, a SEEK project consortium partner. (Photo: SEEK)