It’s another unusual week among the many over the last month plus. It’s food distribution week at KAZI. As businesses globally are closed, staying home and staying safe we've been working hard to step up and answer an important call to ensure our artisans don't go back to the poverty they once knew.
In rural parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty and hunger are as likely for reasons of death as COVID has become for us all globally. Everyday, 10,000 children in Sub-Saharan Africa die of hunger, and that’s when the world is operating normally.
The World Food Program states that at least 20% of Africa's 1.2 billion people are already undernourished - the highest percentage in the world.
Now with government shut-downs and lock-down orders in place, vulnerable populations who survived on selling each day in the marketplace or finding enough work to eat that day are struggling to survive.
We founded KAZI to help alleviate poverty in Africa. We just so happen to do that through handmade home decor, but now, when production is shut down and closed off due to the country's lock down restrictions, we're committed to getting the men and women we partner with and their families food and access to medical care during this trying time.
While our US arm has had to temporarily furlough staff and apply for the PPP program to continue to have a viable business, the Africa teams have been working day and night to secure funding and food, despite rising costs to support our artisans and their families.
Food prices are on the rise as middlemen find opportunities to increase prices in a desperate and limited marketplace. In many cases, like in Kampala, there is a 300% increase of the price of stables like rice and beans making the stakes even higher for families in need.
“We deeply care for the communities in which we serve.” States Greg Stone, Co-Founding Partner and CEO, who is currently located in Uganda during the shutdown. “Today was an important and exciting day as we start our food distribution program to help curb the growing statics we’re seeing from our artisans as their orders have slowed and business is at a halt”.
The artisans would much prefer orders to food relief. The company surveyed its artisans the second week of April to see how they could be of most help. One hundred percent of all artisans reported needing and wanting orders and 72% reported needing food as a form of help during this time.
“Our artisan partners are eager to get back to work and while traditional consumer retail markets are closed and slow to order right now, we’re working to get them the help they need with food and healthcare. We’re also making a shift in our sales to our online marketplace where consumers can access their beautiful products and make a difference in rural Africa by staying at home and decorating their living rooms with our high impact artisan decor” says Alicia Wallace, COO and Co-Founding Partner.
While traditional product orders may be slow and stalled, KAZI is busy distributing necessary food and soap to more than 3,000 of our artisans in three countries - Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana. This is enough for them to feed their family for the next 2-3 weeks, with plans for another distribution round in the coming weeks.
Staples like rice and beans were among the foods distributed as well as sugar, salt and soap, luxuries in many rural homes across Uganda, Rwanda and Ghana.
“We’re just glad we can be of help. We were getting fearful because our artisans were telling us they were going to go hungry, that their savings wasn’t deep enough to last more than a month and they have more than 5 mouths to feed on average” States Cathy Zalwango, KAZI Country Director. “In Uganda, many of us fear hunger over even COVID. It’s what we know three times a day and it’s what’s been known to take the lives of many during our lifetime.”
"I'm so happy to know that the people I work for KAZI care about us," says Namburu Dorothy. "I have ten family members at home that I have to feed now, and without working this will be so difficult. Thank you so much for helping us"
"Our feeding habits have changed due to work stopping. Before, we used to have three meals a day but now we only have one in the morning," Sauda says. She has 9 people to feed at home, and like many weavers in the village, her siblings came to the village from Kampala before the lockdown because it would be too expensive for them to live there with no work in the future. "So now I have to feed even more people than before, but with no income. Thankfully we have received this help and I can plan for the next few weeks accordingly"
"This is a very difficult situation for me and my family," says Hajira, 27 years old. "I miss weaving with my friends and working in order to sustain the people at home, include my 9 month old baby Mahila (pictured). This delivery has helped us a lot!".
"This food aid has helped us a lot because we've been struggling to get food. We don't work anymore these days due to the lockdown and food prices have gone up so we can't afford anything." says Margaret, who has to support 8 people. "I'm so thankful for this help- I wasn't expecting it!".
"We spent all weekend organizing these packages for our weavers because they really need it," Cathy says. "We are changing lives. I don't know what they would've done without us."