The corona virus has spread to Ghana and The Gambia – with consequences for our work in the regions. In this blogpost we will inform you about the rapidly changing developments.
The safety of the people is the top priority of every government. But the virus puts many people in a very difficult situation – especially those with no or litte means. If farmers are not able to harvest their fields, they will have no income and no food. Unlike for instance here in Germany, there won’t be any state rescue packages to save small businesses. So the farmer might have the impossible decision of risking a corona infection or not having any food.
That is why we and our committed project partners will do everything possible to continue with our work and try to find creative solutions for the upcoming challenges. For the villagers, for the young people and their future. In a responsible way and in compliance with all safety measures.
AUGUST 25: The pandemic is turning into a stress test for us
Actually our partners and the project participants in Ghana and The Gambia have gotten through the pandemic quite ok so far. But after six months of Covid-19 restrictions, we are noticing the first serious effects. The still continuing lack of classroom lessons and the renewed lockdown in The Gambia have become a big burden for the Gambian Youth Project.
SECOND SEMESTER EXTENDED FOR MONTHS OF LOCKDOWN
Theoretical classes have been suspended since mid-March. We tried to make up for the missing classes by creating new, self-explanatory teaching materials, with which the students can at least partially acquire some of the theoretical knowledge to back their work in the gardens. But it does not replace the actual lessons with a teacher and the students are worried, that they will not be able to make up for all of what they missed the last couple of months. That is why we decided to extend the semester if necessary. For how many months we will have to extend the semester, we don’t know yet. But provided the lockdown is lifted, we will try to catch up for lost time by employing an additional teacher and by increasing the amount of classroom lessons. We are preparing for this and we hope for the best.
SECOND BATCH OF STUDENTS TO START IN DECEMBER OR JANUARY
The second group of students should have started their training in September. That won’t be possible. The borders between the districts are closed and we cannot conduct personal interviews with the applicants. We have now postponed the start to mid-December / early January. We don’t know, how the situation will be in The Gambia by then. But we are prepared and hope for the best.
IMPORTANT SOURCES OF INCOME MISSING
With the closure of the district borders on August 5th, it became impossible for us to supply important large customers with the eggs from the project – an important source of income for the Rural Development Organization. The postponed start of the second group furthermore leads to a delayed plan for cultivation, which also has an impact on the income of the RDO. As a result, the RDO is currently not generating enough income to cover the operating costs. But that is the way it is. No one expected a pandemic like this to happen. Sabab Lou will assist the RDO financially for this time being, assuming that the RDO will soon be able to increase its income again.
THE GOOD NEWS:
So far nobody in the projects – whether in Ghana oder The Gambia – has fallen ill. According to the Ministry of Health in Ghana, there are currently no active cases of Covid-19 in the Upper Eastern Region, which includes the Chereponi District.
The health of our project partners and all participants is the most important thing right now. For everything else we will find solutions.
We’ll keep you updated.
COVID-19 INFECTIONS IN NUMBERS:
Confirmed Covid-19 infections: 2,585
That’s 813 new infections compared to last week, a new record high. That amounts to a case-fatalty ratio of 3.4 percent.
Confirmed Covid-19 infections: 43,622
That is 969 new infections compared to last week. In mid-July, over 5,000 new infections were recorded in only one week. So there seems to be a downward trend.
AUGUST 6: The Gambia imposes new curfew
As of August 6th, the number of Covid-19 infections has risen to a new record high of 935. 136 of them recovered, 16 people died with or from Covid19. Due to the now very rapidly growing number of infections, the Gambian government has imposed another curfew. Since August 5th, all non essential businesses are closed again, as are universities and religious places. Grocery stores and markets are allowed to open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. On sundays all markets remain closed to allow for city to carry out extensive cleaning measures. There is a strict curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The borders remain closed – with a few exceptions for individual people.
Fortunately, the Gambian Youth Project is not directly affected by the new curfew. Classroom lessons are still suspended, but the work in the gardens continues as usual. As a social enterprise, the Rural Development Organization is allowed to produce and sell vegetables.
AUGUST 2: Number of Covid-19 infections rise
The number of Covid-19 infections continues to rise in both countries. Especially in The Gambia the numbers are rising rapidly. That is why the Gambian government imposed new restrictions and rules of conduct on July 30th: All non-essential businesses and companies have to close again. Whenever outside, on the streets, in public transportation or shops, a mask has to be worn, to cover mouth and nose. Public gatherings are prohibited. The provisions are initially limited to 90 days.
What is important for us: Akor Mukaila and Momodou Bah, the managing directors of our partner organizations in Ghana and The Gambia, have not registered any infections in the project areas yet. They and all project participants are doing well.
To conclude, here an overview of the Covid-19 infections as of August 2nd:
Confirmed cases: 37,014
Confirmed cases: 498 (95 confirmed infections more than the previous day)
We’ll keep you updated as the situation developes.
JULY 7: Positive spirit
Momodou Bah, project manager of the Gambian Youth Project, says that neither the trainees in the project, nor the Gambian population as a whole, are seriously worried about the new virus. Even though The Gambia reports rising numbers and a total of 61 COVID-19 infections (of which 31 are active cases, 27 have recovered), the number seems marginal in international comparison. To date, only three people have died with or from the coronavirus, according to official sources. Almost all corona infections were imported from other countries and identified very quickly, so that the affected people could be placed in quarantine. It appears, that The Gambia is able to control the outbreak of the virus for now.
The classroom lessons are still not allowed to take place at the moment and there are strict hygiene rules in the youth camp. But apart from that, the project activities can continue as usual. The trainees work in the gardens and care for the animals – just as the used to. And in their free time they try to catch up on the theoretical background as well as they can on their own – for now, until the classes can start again. And there is more good news: The RDO has not yet had any shortfalls in sales (the Gambian government had frozen market prices early on to prevent dramatic price fluctuations). The demand seems steady and the RDO is able to sell all its vegetables and almost 1.000 eggs a day on the market – of course, in compliance with strict hygiene rules.
Also in our project region in Ghana the virus is not perceived as a real threat. Even though Ghana now reports over 21,077 infections (of which 16,070 people have recovered – 4,878 active cases remain), the cases concentrate around the Greater Accra Region and the Ashanti Region. In the Upper Eastern Region – in which the Chereponi District is located – the numbers are rising very slowly – from 271 in mid-June to 278 corona infections. To be even more precise: according to Akor Munkaila, project manager of our new farming project, no case has yet been documented in the Chereponi District. Here you can follow the current figures: https://ghanahealthservice.org/covid19/
But even if first cases reach the Chereponi District – the farmers have no time to indulge in fear or worry too much about what lies ahead, because they have to cultivate their fields – now, not later. The rains started and the families – regardless of whether they are involved in our new project or not – have to plant their maize, millet and soybeans, so that they can earn an income in a few months. But who knows, maybe the remote region of Chereponi will be spared from the virus. For now we can continue as usual and have been able to implement all measures of the new Chereponi Farming Project according to plan.
JUNE 20: No news is good news
The reason why we haven’t been in touch for a while is actually a good one. There just wasn’t that much to report about the development of the pandemic.
The Gambia reports a total of 11 active cases. Of the 37 confirmed corona infections, 24 have already recovered.
That means: Even if in many countries the peak of the pandemic is yet to be expected – at the moment we can continue our project work as usual.
Not only that. In The Gambia university students are expected to start their exams again on Wednesday, June 24th. Also the ninth graders shall resume classes. For now we are still not allowed to teach in the Gambian Youth Project, but with the positive developments we hope to start classes soon.
The number of corona infections in Ghana has increased to a total of 14,154, of which 10,473 have already recovered. And even in the Upper East Region the confirmed cases have increased to 271. But the situation in the Chereponi district, where we work, remains calm. Project manager Akor Munkaila sais that no cases have been confirmed in the district so far.
MAY 30: Ghana relaxes corona protection measures
On Saturday, May 30th, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced first easing measures in the fight against the corona pandemic:
June 29th, final year students of JHS, SHS and the University will resume school. Religious services are allowed to commence effective Friday, June 5th, with mandatory use of nose masks. Private events, such as weddings or funerals, will be allowed to proceed with a maximum of 100 people. This makes village meetings possible again, a big relief for project manager Akor Munkaila from the Farming Development Organization (FDO). However, the borders remain closed and Other social gatherings such as sporting activities or political rallies are still prohibited. Nevertheless the easing of the measures is a good sign, that the pandemic seems under control.
MAY 27: Corona cases under control
The numbers barely rise.
The Gambia there are currently 6 active cases, from the 25 infected people, 18 already recovered.
Ghana reports a total of 7.303 corona-infections, from which 2.412 people have recovered. In the Upper Eastern Region 26 cases are reported.
MAY 23: EID MUBARAK!
On Saturday, May 23rd, the students in the Gambian Youth Camp celebrated the end of Ramadan together. EID is usually celebrated with ones family and relatives. It is an important festival for Muslims and the students of the youth camp were free to choose whether they would rather celebrate with their families and relatives or stay in the camp. The only requirement was that if they drive home, they can not come back until the contact restrictions are lifted. But the students seem to enjoy their life in the camp and the work in the gardens seems to be a priority for all of them. That’s why they all stayed and celebrated EID together – together as a new sort of family.
MAY 11: Nothing new
In Ghana about 4.700 corona infections have been registered, with 26 cases in the Upper Eastern Region. So the number of infections is rising, but only slowly. The 22 infections in The Gambia almost don’t seem worth mentioning. Of course, we can’t know if this is the true number of infections or if the dark figure is much higher. But for now, there seems to be no feeling of panic arising, whether in The Gambia or Ghana.
In compliance with the new health regulations, Akor Mukailia (project manager of our new project in the Upper Eastern Region of Ghana) and Momodou Bah (project manager of the Gambian Youth Project) can both continue with their work as planned. So in this case: No news is good news.
APRIL 29: Life and work in the Gambian Youth Project continues as usual
Except for the stricter hygiene measures, life and work in the Gambian Youth Project almost continues as normal. Momodou Bah, the manager of the project, wrote us this: “Work in the garden is ongoing. We are currently harvesting cucumbers, okra, eggplant, onions, tomato, lettuce and bitter tomato in small quantities and selling them on the market.”
As Momodou reports, there seem to be no food shortages at the moment.
As to the numbers of COVID-19 infections:
No new cases have been reported from The Gambia.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Ghana has increased to 2.074, with 19 infections registered in the Upper Eastern Region (our project region).
APRIL 27: Start of the rainy season in Chereponie, Ghana
Good news: It started to rain in Chereponie and the North of Ghana. The seasons keep changing, unimpressed by the Corona pandemic.
The first farmer families started to prepare their fields and plant Yams, Cassava, Melons and yellow corn. Grains, such as corn, soybeans and millet will follow with the begin of the monsoon season in the summer (this will be part of our new project, which we will tell you more about soon). Luckily the lockdown has been lifted in almost all parts of Ghana, so that the farmers can continue the work of the fields as usual.
In respect to the Coronca infections:
In Ghana infections increased to a total of 1.550. In the Upped Eastern Region no new cases were reported, with a total of 8 registered Corona infections in the region.
The Gambia reported 10 cases so far.
APRIL 18: The situation in the project region stays calm
The Corona infections in Ghana have increased to 834 in total, with now 8 cases registered in the Upper Eastern region.
In The Gambia there are still only 9 cases registered.
APRIL 17: We are prepared to start with the online classes
We are not allowed to start with the classes yet. But for the moment that schools and training centers in The Gambia are allowed to open again, we are prepared. Lufthansa trainees Anh-Thu and Larissa just finished the online course for the upcoming business class about “How to sell your business idea”. We can’t wait to start. We will keep you updated.
APRIL 11: Corona infections slowly increase
Corona infections in The Gambia have increased by five new cases, amounting to a total of only 9 confirmed infections.
Infections in Ghana have risen to 408 (as of April 10th, 11:00 p.m.). In the Upper Eastern Region, where the Anoshe Women project is placed and where the new project is scheduled to start, only one case has been registered.
APRIL 6: Gambian Government freezes market prices
On April 6th, Momodou Bah, project manager of the Gambian Youth Project writes us following update: “The Gambian government has frozen the market prices. All vendors who raise their prices for essential goods and are trying to profit from this crisis are being arrested and sent to court. Some people already had to pay half a million Dalasi (approximately 9.000 Euro)as punishment and their license was revoked.”
The governments intervention in this case is an important measure, since we dreaded the prices to skyrocket, as they normally do in times of crisis. And that always hits the poorer population the hardest.
In Ghana presents a different situation. There, project manager Akor Munkaila told us, that the prices for essential good have partially doubled!
It now all depends on how long the security measures will continue. As soon as the situation eases somewhat, Akor expects prices to normalize again.
APRIL 3: RDO can continue work in the vegetable gardens
Good news from our Gambian Youth Project: The classes will be suspended until further notice, but the work in the gardens can continue. This is confirmed by a law firm.
Because we founded the Rural Development Organization (RDO) as a “social entrepreneur”, our partner organization can now continue to grow vegetables as an essential food producer. This is particularly important to Momodou Bah, given that the rural areas have to expect food shortages.
For this, the RDO will give the students temporary employment contracts. This way the training facility officially becomes a production facility and is allowed to remain open – in strict compliance with the safety regulations of the WHO.
All students were free to choose whether they want to return to their families or stay in the camp. Almost all of them decided to stay. Only three have returned to their villages for the duration of government regulations. We are very pleased, that so many students decided to stay in the camp in this exceptional situation. It shows great trust in local management.
APRIL 2: It’s not going to be easy, but we are starting a new project in Ghana
Ghana reports a total of 204 corona infections, with now 10 cases in the Northern Region. All public gatherings are cancelled. Meetings of more than six people are prohibited.
This demands an considerable amount of extra effort for project manager Akor Munkaila. We are starting a new project (we will give more details soon) and Akor Munkaila is in the middle of the preparations. But instead of holding village meetings, he now visits all farmer families individually to discusses the upcoming steps. This is a lot of work, but the only way can we ensure everyone’s health and move forward as planned.
Also: Due to intensive disinfection measures, the market is closed for the day.
MARCH 28: Law firm to clarify if Gambian Youth Camp may remain open
In view of the tightened security measures, we are faced with the question of whether the youth camp has to close. However, since the RDO is both a training center and a food producer, the situation is not entirely clear. We hire a well-known law firm to clarify the legal situation.
MARCH 27: Gambian President closes all non systemically relevant places and businesses
In his second address to the nation, President Adama Barrow announced the closure of all public places, as well as all non essential places, such as cinemas, gyms, swimming pools, event locations or religious sites. Meetings of more than 10 people are prohibited.
MARCH 25: We start planning the upcoming online business courses
With the aim, that the business lessons in the Gambian youth project should continue as soon as possible, we start planning the digital-interactive lessons with the Lufthansa trainees and beginn to work.
Ghana closes all borders. To date, 78 corona infections have been reported.
The Gambia closes its borders to Senegal and all airspace.
Ghana reports a total of 24 corona infections.
MARCH 18: Strict hygiene measures for Gambian Youth Project
In order to guarantee everyones safety and health, we discuss stricter hygiene measures for the students with the camp management of the Rural Development Organization (RDO). Contacts with external contractors or vendors are to be reduced to a minimum. Food and essential products should be stocked in larger quantities, as we have to expect food shortages in the upcoming weeks and months.
To not waste time, we talk to the responsible departments of the Lufthansa Group and discuss how to proceed with the business classes. Skipping the lessons is not an option for us. The management agrees to continue to support the classes via online courses. Read more.
MARCH 17: Lufthansa Trainees have to leave The Gambia
Foreign visitors and tourists are asked to go into quarantine for two weeks. The government imposes an entry stop for tourists from regions with increased corona cases (including Europe). Government employees are prohibited from traveling abroad. Public events such as conferences, demonstrations or funerals are prohibited. The Gambian government announces nationwide closings of schools for an initial 21 days.
Due to the tense situation in Europe, the Federal Foreign Office instructs all Germans abroad to start their journey home immediately. Brussels Airlines announces that the last flight from The Gambia will be on March 21st. The Lufthansa trainees leave on the evening of March 17th.
Public life in The Gambia continues for the time being – albeit with restrictions. The youth camp remains open.
The Gambia reports the first corona case.
Ghana reports the first corona cases.