In Kenya, like elsewhere on the planet, the virus is present. According to official government sources, the contamination is minimal, with currently 110 confirmed cases, 3 fatalities, and 4 recoveries. The government has taken proper steps to tackle the potential spread of the virus.
Since March 16, schools have closed, and people have been directed to work from home including private companies. Effective March 27, a curfew is in place from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Medical facilities have been prepared and the general public has been informed through various channels, such as news broadcasts, articles in newspapers, radio, and directives sent to local authorities. Even in the countryside, people are much aware of what is going on.
In Uganda, the situation is not essentially different, with 44 confirmed cases, no deaths, and no recoveries.
Nevertheless, Better Globe Forestry’s operations cannot be brought to a complete standstill. Since this is a rainy season and the company has prepared for planting and distributing mukau seedlings, we have taken the following steps.
The head office in Nairobi is closed, although the occasional visit by a key staff member is allowed, upon authorisation by Human Resources. We are working from home, and online, with help of mobile phones, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, fax and of course e-mail. Our essential weekly coordination meetings continue to take place, and management is in touch at all times with each other, AND with the field sites.
All field sites — that is Kiambere plantation, Seven Forks Farmers Programme, Nyongoro plantation and Dokolo Farmers Programme — are well informed and have instructions on how to protect themselves and their co-workers against the virus. Health & Safety committee meetings are held frequently at each site, focusing on how to spread the message among workers, and which additional measures (applicable to each site) could and should be taken. It is not the objective to repeat the directives as they have been popularized by the World Health Organization, but each site developed some worthwhile ideas, in order to continue working as close to normal as possible.
For instance, more water points were established, and extra soap was issued, as well as sanitizer, surgical spirits and cotton wool. Tools and equipment are disinfected by the end of each working day; people handling crates (for seedling distribution) are using plastic gloves; the lorries distributing seedlings are equipped with water containers and soap; and so on. Guidelines on basic protective measures against the new coronavirus — washing hands frequently, maintaining social distancing, just to name a few — are strictly applied during seedling transport, with our agroforestry agents driving with the lorries, not sitting inside the cabin, and personal protective equipment cannot be shared with disinfection. The list goes on.
We’re functioning pretty well for the moment, with good communication systems, and will keep you informed.