Editor's Note [Volume 20 No. 6 (2020)]

Rural Outreach Africa during COVID-19: Reaching those who fall through the CRACKS

Here we go again. Just when we thought we could reopen the economy and even send children back to school, we see a resurgence in COVID-19 numbers. There are still too many challenges. Economies are on their knees, and yet grim as it looks, one sees opportunities. If these lockdowns resume, fragile economies will sink to levels never seen before in recent times and probably most difficult to recover from.

According to Euromonitor International (www.euromonitor.com) food nationalism grew during the pandemic, local sourcing gained prominence, as food went back to basics. Natural and traditional wisdom, environmental and sustainability concerns, and growth of home country fresh food are all evident.

As an organization, we have for the past three decades focused on smallholder farmers, working with them, engaging them, to transfer technologies and share information that can help them improve their farming practices. Ultimately the most viable resource smallholder farmers have that supports family livelihoods is their soil. From their soil on small plots, they source both food and income. All this time we have managed to touch the lives of nearly 0.5 million directly. Through field days and direct contact with farmers, through farmer field schools, and different media such as local radio and social media, we continue to engage with farmers even in the wake of limited resources. When COVID-19 took root, it became clear that all the work we have done over the years, using agriculture to get farmers out of poverty and hunger, restore their dignity, would go to naught and gains wiped out especially if we did not pay special attention to issues of food security and nutrition. Women were initially our focus, and to-date, women’s role in nurturing families, feeding children to ensure proper growth, and good health remains central. As a result, we have reached out to relevant government agencies and other stakeholders to offer our expertise specifically on nutrition and diet diversification. At the same time, we have reached out to well-wishers to help us cushion those most severely affected by COVID-19. Indeed, it is those struggling to provide for their families that have been most hit by the negative impact of COVID-19. Mothers are struggling to find food to feed their families, men do not have jobs to keep them busy. Young people are lost and the environment they find themselves in leads nowhere else but to anti-social behaviour.

The one good thing that has come out of the current situation is a huge appreciation of local, traditional, natural foods, and from global consumer surveys, this seems to be the case all over.

Accompanying this is a real interest in food quality and dietary diversity and how these contribute to human health and immunity. There is more talk of good nutrition than I have ever had before. That is good. Nutrition is important as it is the foundation of good life long health. Good food impacts us socially, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, in a way that nothing else does.

Our Guest Editorial for this issue is Dr Francis Onditi, Kenyan and an award-winning thinker, avid writer and researcher, addressing issues of education as many countries grapple with the challenge of re-opening schools during this pandemic. We are lucky to have him share his thoughts at this time. As children and children resume in-person learning we, now more than ever before, need to ensure we put in place hygienic conditions, provide adequate hygienic sanitation facilities, and pay more attention to what our young people eat. Then there are those we have had to reach, just to be able to reduce their stress and keep them alive. Food has been the most deficient commodity. To learn more about our work in communities please visit our website: www.ruraloutreachafrica.org

TThis issue has 17 papers (including a short communication) that have passed our rigorous peer review process.

Ruth Khasaya Oniang'o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND


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