Photo credit Caroline Karuitha

Supporting Waitrose Workers in Kenya Through the Pandemic

By Anissa Msallem, Head of Partnerships, Farm Africa

Working with INGO Farm Africa, Waitrose & Partners Foundation provided a financial support package to give additional support to Waitrose suppliers in Kenya affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Support has included PPE, healthcare, childcare, food packages for workers on reduced earnings and helping smallholder farmers to restart the supply of vegetables.

Farm Africa has been partnering with the Waitrose & Partners Foundation in Kenya since 2017 and supports the delivery of projects with 12,000 workers across seven vegetable and flower farms in the Waitrose supply chain. Projects are funded by sales of Foundation produce and supplier farms in the UK and it is the workers themselves who decide what the projects should focus on including: the environment and green energy, water and sanitation, health and wellbeing, access to finance, and education.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the Foundation provided a financial support package of £215,000 for Waitrose suppliers in Kenya to help cushion the blow. This additional support provided PPE to stem the spread of the virus, improved workers’ access to essential services such as healthcare and childcare, assisted workers on reduced earnings through food packages and helped smallholder farmers to restart the vegetable production and supply.

Caroline Bongo, a project coordinator at Farm Africa, who delivers the Waitrose & Partners Foundation’s work in Kenya, commented: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented shock to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and farm workers in Kenya. The additional support from the Waitrose & Partners Foundation has been a lifeline to many families whose incomes were suddenly drastically cut due to reductions in working hours.”

Sam Ludlow Taylor, Senior Manager – Human Rights Programmes, Waitrose & Partners added: “We have a strong commitment to farmers and workers in Waitrose supply chains, championing empowered and thriving workforces. The pandemic has been an immense challenge for our workers, and it was only right to respond quickly with new ways to support their livelihoods. We are proud of what we have been able to achieve over this difficult time through collaboration with our farm partners and Farm Africa.”

The Waitrose & Partners Foundation Covid-19 support included:

  • Face masks and detergents to reduce the spread of the virus on farms.
  • Food packages for workers whose jobs were at risk.
  • Facemasks and sanitisers for farm workers’ children returning to school at the end of lockdown.
  • The establishment of a micro-finance scheme to ensure farmers had access to funds to grow export crops or alternative crops, along with information on crop management.
  • Access to agricultural technologies to boost production and reduce post-harvest losses, including solar-powered cool storage units to preserve produce as farmers awaited availability of the market.
  • Inputs such as seeds and fertilisers to support farmers to get back to normal production schedules.
  • Training for farmers on business continuity in the event of Covid cases.
  • A mobile phone app to access agricultural training.

Faith’s story

57-year-old Faith Ngode from Kirinyaga County, Kenya has always been held back from increasing her vegetable production by an inadequate supply of water for irrigation.

The farmer, who is also a teacher, received a water pump from the Waitrose & Partners Foundation as part of an initiative to help outgrower farmers boost their production during the pandemic.

It now only takes Faith a day to irrigate her crops and she spends less on labour. She plans to farm another five acres of land so that she can grow more fine beans. Following the increase in water supply, she has also begun growing baby corn.

Faith used to produce eight tonnes of fine beans at her farm and she has no doubt that her yields will more than double since she now has access to more water. Her profits will also be boosted from the drop in production costs.

“Once my production increases, I will be closer to my dream of building rental houses so that I can earn an extra income.”

Protecting school children against Covid-19

With funding from the Waitrose & Partners Foundation, Farm Africa was able to issue every student at Shermoi South-lake Primary School in Naivasha, Kenya with a facemask to protect themselves and each other against the spread of Covid-19. They also received sanitiser dispensers, sanitisers and thermometers.

Mr David Wamae, the school’s headteacher, noted that prior to receiving the masks, the school’s performance had fallen due to students being sent home to fetch masks, thus affecting their quality of learning. The distribution of masks led to lower absenteeism and a recovery in the school’s performance.

“The mask helps me to protect myself from contracting Covid-19. It fits me well and I breathe comfortably in it,” says 11-year-old Elvis Njenga. He adds that thanks to the PPE, cases of fever, stomach aches and body rashes among his schoolmates have reduced due to better hygiene.


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