14 January 2021

back to overview

Making safety measures everyone’s cup of tea

Finance in Motion supports COVID-19 protection campaign for Kenyan tea communities 

As a member of the Finance in Motion team managing the eco.business Development Facility in Nairobi, John Keige Ng'ang'a helps identify where technical support can maximize the impact of the eco.business Fund in sub-Saharan Africa – an impact investment fund advised by Finance in Motion that promotes sustainable production and consumption practices. This puts John in contact with a lot of regional players who are similarly committed to biodiversity conservation, the sustainable use of natural resources, and mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts.

As the coronavirus spread across the globe in 2020, John was approached by the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), an NGO that promotes sustainable and socially responsible tea production. ETP was concerned for the wellbeing of Kenya’s many rural tea plantation workers in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Many employees live together in tight-knit communities during harvest season, and a case of coronavirus might easily spread if containment measures are not put in place. 

Fortunately, John knew of a way to help. Finance in Motion had just announced to all employees that the company was setting aside funding specifically to help communities cope with the pandemic. So John proposed a project: He knew that, next to ensuring access to handwashing facilities and face masks, education about modes of transmissions and basic precautions is crucial for saving lives. His idea was to fund on-site prevention training with health professionals to supplement the physical measures already in place on the tea farms. 

Unfortunately, due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, things didn’t work out as planned. By the summer, following a surge in COVID-19 cases, Kenya introduced strict lockdown measures that prohibited outside visitors from entering the plantations. “With the opportunity of having trainers come to the plantation gone, we needed to get creative quickly,” John says. “Tea farms in the country were doing the best they could to combat the pandemic, but we wanted to support these efforts by offering a focused safety campaign, designed by experts, that could be implemented across the industry.”

He turned to a local video animation agency. In lieu of in-person training, the agency would produce short educational clips about specific precautionary measures and hygiene rules that can drastically limit the spread of the virus on tea plantations and in the workers’ quarters. “Our focus was on the workers,” says John. “We wanted to make sure that the new guidelines would not be received as a top-down order but rather as a communal responsibility to ensure everyone’s safety. It’s one thing to be told to do something. It’s another to understand how it’s effective and believe yourself in the importance of compliance with the rules.” Therefore, he and the agency worked hard to clearly present the reasons behind the extensive new measures that affect every aspect of everyday life.

As John explains, many tea plantations feature community halls that are equipped with multimedia facilities allowing workers to stay informed. “The 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock TV news have a broad viewership. So we agreed that the most efficient way to reach people was by displaying our COVID-19 awareness video in the time windows shortly before and after the news,” he says. In addition to broadcasting the animated video, posters with handwashing guidelines and other hygiene rules have been hung above taps in social halls. 

The campaign has been well adopted over the last months. “The materials are being shown in 17 plantations by now,” John reports. “And we are seeing a pretty good uptake: People are listening to the messages, following the advice. We have also donated 2,500 masks to supplement these educational endeavors. All these efforts are particularly crucial as cases rise in Kenya; we cannot let down our guard. The virus does not care if we are getting tired of hearing about it; we must continue to be vigilant if we want to keep ourselves and our communities safe.”  

Finance in Motion has devoted EUR 100,000 to alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak by supporting targeted relief projects around the world. Click here to learn more about other projects made possible by the relief.