Unpaid care refers to all non-market, unpaid activities that are carried out in households, such as caring for children or the elderly, and other activities such as cooking, cleaning, or fetching water. Although many advances have been made in gender equality, in many parts of the world, this is still considered a women’s or girl’s role.
Unpaid work and domestic work contribute $10 trillion of output per year – roughly equivalent to 13% of global GDP (World Bank, 2012) – yet it remains largely invisible, unrecognised and absent from public policies. As this societal burden is placed on women and girls, it leaves them with little to no time to pursue paid and civic empowerment, that would otherwise contribute to personal and economic development.
A study by Oxfam on Gendered Patterns of Unpaid Care and Domestic Work in the Urban Informal Settlements of Nairobi, Kenya, 2019 revealed that women in Kenya have by far the greatest responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work, as they spend on average, 5 hours a day on primary care compared to about 1 hour a day reported by men (Oxfam, 2019).
This resonates across the African continent, as women’s time constrains are perceived to be highest in rural areas because of the arduous tasks of collecting water, fuel, and preparing food. Collectively, women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa are responsible for collecting 71% of all household water, spending 16 million hours every day collecting water, compared to 6 million hours for men and 4 million hours for children (UN Women, 2015; Oxfam, 2019).
Kenya and other countries around the world are recognising the importance of gender equality in achieving sustainable development. But what this report really reveals, is that women’s unpaid care responsibilities are a key constraint to women’s participation in education, self-care, leadership, and economic opportunities. The report emphasises that care work should be recognised at all levels and reduced, to allow women and girls to spend more time on leisure and partake in value adding activities.
That’s where Keystone come in. In Kenya, our community-based programmes are set on achieving equality of opportunity. We understand that for our activities to be successful, we must sensitise genders working together, by encouraging the distribution and sharing of economic resources and even household chores. Change stems from a personal, then household level, and by recognising the social norms from the outset, we are able to adapt the interventions to present women with equal prospects. This matters, because as a sustainable developer, we also realise that change is a process, and takes time. We are whole heartedly committed to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and will use these as our guideline to achieve our objectives.
The financial system that doesn’t profit by undermining and destabilising human wellbeing, but actually serves society, the economy, and our common interests.
Source: Kate Raworth and Christian Guthier/The Lancet Planetary Health.
Our planet is under significant pressure. We are currently living in the Anthropocene, and while this process began during the industrial revolution in the 1700s, it has accelerated rapidly in the past 50 years. During this time, the global consumption of food, fresh water, and fossil fuels has more than tripled (Foley 2010).
There are vast inequalities in the world today, as the richest people have used and continue to use the vast majority of the world’s resources: for example, 50% of carbon emissions are generated by just 11% of people (Raworth, 2012). While many people have experienced a higher standard of living as a result of globalisation and economic transformation, millions remain in poverty, with nearly 870 million people facing hunger every day (FAO et al. 2012).
Kenya is one example, and who faces the ‘triple ‘challenge’ of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. Climate change also poses a significant threat and is hitting the poorest people first and worst. Rising temperatures, flooding, drought, changing rainfall seasons, and stronger winds are negatively affecting the countries’ biodiversity, food security, water security, and human health.
So how can the doughnut model help transform the developing world?
The circular flow diagram that depicts mainstream economics ignores the various social and ecological systems that underpin the economy. For example, the unpaid work that carers (mostly women) undertake is deemed irrelevant, despite the economy not functioning without them. As such, this representation of economic activity is far from that of reality, and highlights how a more holistic approach is required to transform the places we live in today.
In her economic model, Raworth takes the Earth’s natural systems and society into account. It shows us how the economy depends on the flow of raw materials and energy, and reminds us that we are more than just workers, consumers, and owners of capital. She exemplifies a world where social and ecological perspectives could work to reduce inequalities in wealth and income, whilst benefitting the planet, and where wealth derived from natural assets could be widely shared and not remain in the hands of the capitalist elite. Furthermore, public investment and taxation could be designed in such a way, that it would actually conserve and regenerate natural resources rather than deplete them.
So how could this be used in Kenya?
The doughnut model is the transformative tool that is required to not only lift us out of the mess Covid-19 has created, but to significantly transform today’s divisive economies. Large advances have been made in solar energy, and thus there is huge potential for Kenya to develop a ‘green economy’, one which would create new jobs, provide access to electricity, and reduce carbon emissions. By keeping within the realms of the doughnut, Kenya could make significant progress towards achieving a socially just and environmentally sustainable society, all the while allowing Kenyan citizens to thrive individually and collectively.
The UK’s panic buying and stockpiling in recent weeks has highlighted the fragility of our just-in-time food system. It has caused concern over potential food inflation, and how ‘food nationalism’ could potentially disrupt exports of staple grains such as rice, beans, and wheat from Asian and African continents (as host nations hold on to their supplies for their own people).
It is without doubt that the impacts of the virus will be felt widely and unevenly across the world. For example, many low and middle-income countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, and Angola, are now reporting cases of the virus and subsequently imposing rigorous lock down regulations in response. This allows us to question whether the supply chains in developing countries will be affected, and if so, to what extent.
The biggest issue is that African countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are already fragile with food security. It has been reported that the World Food Programme was already feeding millions in Africa due to a myriad of disasters: floods, droughts, armed conflict, government failures, and most recently, a plague of locusts that have been traversing the continent. This coupled with the fact that lockdowns in at least 33 of Africa’s 54 countries have blocked farmers from getting food to markets, and threatened deliveries of food aid to those in rural areas.
The informal sector is the backbone of the economy, and the many informal markets are where millions of people buy their food every day. These have now been forced to shut, along with the closure of schools, which has meant that 65 million children on the continent are missing out on meals. This poses a significant threat to their health, as they are faced with the prospect of malnutrition and starvation - as long as lockdowns remain in tack.
The confluence of the locust invasion and coronavirus has caused food prices to rise significantly as demand for food outstrips supply. For example, the price for a kilogram of rice in Kenya now costs more than $1.25 compared to $0.87 before the locust crisis, and because of Covid-19 the price of a pack of potatoes in Zimbabwe is now $40 compared to $14 just a couple days ago. From the outset, this may not seem like much, but for those with no income, no food, and families to feed, this is a significant issue.
Ultimately, the organisation of food supply chains is strongly affected by levels of economic development, and factors such as urbanisation, and globalisation. Undoubtedly the coronavirus will have disproportionate impact in poorer countries that lack the basic infrastructure, compared to those in the western hemisphere. The immediate concern for the entire African continent is not the virus itself. Rather, it is the capacity to survive during this lockdown period, as food and water supplies run short. The question now is whether people will die from the virus, or from hunger itself.
According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP) the global rate of desertification is speeding up. It remains a significant issue, particularly in sensitive sub-Saharan countries where over 80% of the economy is based on subsistence farming. Africa is the worst affected continent; with two-thirds of its desert and agricultural drylands seriously or moderately degraded. This requires a call for action.
When land becomes desert, its ability to support the local people and their livelihoods declines dramatically. Food can’t be grown, water can’t be collected, and habitats shift. In Kenya, the soils are shallow, highly variable and aren’t particularly fertile. This combined with the continuous cultivation, overgrazing, and lack of soil and water conservation structures are aggravating this process.
The persistent degradation of dry land ecosystems is having a far-reaching impact on human health, food security and economic activity. Most notably, the 2005-2006 drought caused the pastoralists' herds of cattle, goats and sheep to fall 30% in just one year, leaving 80% of all Kenyan pastoralists dependent on international food aid. As droughts occur more frequently and intensely, this continuous burden on the grazing landscape makes herding cattle extremely difficult, thereby impeding economic independence and destroying the local environment. As a result, most households are extremely poor and lag behind in all spheres of social and economic development.
On the ground we are helping the local indigenous communities by developing community grazing plans, structuring rainwater catchments, and encouraging sustainable seed planting and harvesting techniques. This not only ensures food security, but also helps improve soil conservation. These best practices are developed in a participatory and inclusive way, enabling the local community members to become actively involved and committed, ensuring they own the process which ultimately leads to a substantial impact. They can also be scaled up and implemented in local communities elsewhere.
The desert locust is one of the most devastating migratory pests in the world. It is highly mobile and feeds on large quantities of any kind of green vegetation, such as crops, pasture, and fodder. A typical swarm can be made up of 150 million locusts per square kilometer, usually carried by the wind up to 150km in one day. Even a very small, one-square-kilometer locust swarm can eat the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people. This poses a significant threat to subsistence farmers as the locusts destroy their very livelihood, and potentially endangers the food security of almost 25 million people.
A swarm covering an area the size of Luxembourg has been spotted in 10 African and Middle Eastern countries in the last few months, and more recently in Kenya. Experts fear that global warming is the root cause, and an increase in tropical storms is creating favourable conditions for them to breed in.\
So where did it start, and how do warming global temperatures facilitate longer breeding conditions?
As greenhouse gases trap more energy from the sun the oceans absorb more heat, resulting in an increase in surface sea temperatures. Changes in ocean temperatures and currents brought about by climate change lead to alterations in climate pattern around the world. Tropical cyclones are one example, and form when the water warms above 27°C, causing the moist air above the oceans to rise. In this case, a pair of cyclones came in from the Indian Oceans and targeted the Arabian peninsula - the vast desert region near the border of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman, which brought copious amounts of wind and rain.
When this rain falls in semi-arid and desert-like regions, the sandy soils are unable to cope with the amount of rainfall and inevitably flood. As such, once the floods recede, much of the soil retains this moisture, and according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) provides perfect conditions for female desert locusts to lay their eggs for months at a time.
The desert locust are a difficult pest to control as they often cover very large and remote areas. But also, many countries affected lack basic infrastructure with limited resources for locust monitoring and control, and those inundated with political rife struggle to develop the necessary implementation activities. Without preventive systems, these locust swarms could happen more frequently, last longer, and spread further beyond imagination. The UN has warned that the locust swarms could increase 500 times by June, posing a major threat to the entire region.
The short food supply also presents another problem. As demand outstrips supply, the price for a kilogram of rice now costs more than £1 compared to 70p before the locust crisis. From the outset, this may not seem a lot, but for those with little money, no crops, and families to feed, this is a significant rise.
The locusts are causing significant disruption to the region’s food supply and raising prices in areas most heavily affected.
The biggest issue is that African countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are already fragile with food security. If they don’t manage to get this locust invasion under control, and reduce the significant strain on the current food supply, then they could potentially face a severe famine like Ethiopia has continually experienced over the twentieth century.