One of the far-reaching effects of the war in Ukraine is dramatically rising costs of basic goods across much of the African continent. Eastern Africa imports significant percentages of its wheat, cooking oil, fertilizer, and petrol from Ukraine and Russia. Supply disruptions lead to cost increases in these basic needs, affecting those vulnerable people and small-scale farmers that SIA Partners support.
Impact in Kenya
From SIA Partner Jennifer Hughes-Bystrom of Springs of Hope:
"I'm sure you'll be hearing this from your board in East Africa if you haven't already. The cost of gasoline affects the cost and availability of food and the cost of public transportation. I asked our manager to go to town and stock up as prices are going up daily. Maize, which is normally 3,000/- [Kenyan Shillings] for a 90 kg bag was 4,000/-, and she had to search for the last two remaining bags in the market. Beans, normally 6,000/- for a 90 kg bag, were 7,200/-.
Christina Phiri, a SIA Small Business Fund recipient, sells beans in the marketplace in Malawi, 2019
"I don't know what the people who rely on seasonal work in the fields, usually single mothers, are going to do. Plus, it's an election year which may become the perfect storm for violence and looting." The value of the Kenyan Shilling compared to the US dollar has also dropped 10% in the last two years, after being steady for over a decade.
SIA Partner Lilian Wanjira of Ubuntu Kenya:
"What's worse is that it hasn't rained as usual. So despite everything, Kenyans should first pray for rain."
Lush corn fields after the rains in 2019. Eldoret, Kenya. Kenya usually has two rainy seasons each year - starting in March and October.
Impact in Rwanda
From SIA African Advisory Board Member Fulgence Ndagijimana:
"I spoke to Yannick yesterday, who works with Burundian refugees in Rwanda. He told me that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia is an excuse for everything to be almost double in price, especially food items like beans and cornflour, which do not come from Ukraine or Russia but are high in price because of speculation and transportation costs. Cooking gas is probably the most expensive item of all. The concern is that what they have will not carry them through the next weeks. The situation is the same in Burundi, where some women in rural areas are faced with the same problems.
A SIA Grant in 2017 helped a group of Burundian refugees open a cafe and community hang-out spot in Rwanda.
In the short term, the SIA Boards (North American and African Advisory Boards) agreed to increase the emergency funds available for immediate hunger relief in our partner communities. In the long-term, this situation highlights the great value of the food security programs that our SIA Grants support. Organic farming can reduce the need for fertilizers and protect the soil. Community-led savings and loans groups can help people diversify their businesses and tide them over until harvest time.
We invite you to keep these concerns – for peace, for food security, for the rains – in your prayers in the coming weeks.
The Mother's Support Program from the Visionary Women's Center (a SIA Partner) recently gave women five chickens each to assist with household income and financial security. The women are balancing their savings pot on their heads. They will save for one year before using the funds.