Utooni Development / Our Work / Covid 19 Livelihood Response Project


Project Title The COVID-19 Livelihood Response Project | Member Organization Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)

Implementing Partner Utooni Development Organization (UDO)

In Kenya the Ministry of Health confirmed the first case in Nairobi, the capital city on 13th March 2020. Thereafter around October when the project started around 1500 cases had been reported in the country. Makueni and Machakos Counties???. To curb the virus spread government through MOH directive directed County borders closure from the month of march to September 2021. This was followed up with other strict measures like washing hands using soaps or using sanitizer, wearing mask while in any social gathering and social distance. Some of the measures taken like social gathering caused suspension of local open market days, while dusk to dawn curfews, and regional-based lockdowns disrupted the food supply system. Consequently, the impact of Covid-19 on people’s livelihoods, their health and food systems become more apparent. Learning institutions – university, colleges and primary schools got closed down including hotels. This affected low-income earners like casual labors and students sent home  The Covid-19 menace developed into a major source of worry for farmers (including those working with UDO) unable to sell their produce or having to sell at reduced prices. Farmers reported significant losses and found themselves in difficult positions financially. Their ability to engage in other income


This end-project report therefore aims to provide highlights, descriptions, lessons and generally share the end-progress of the 6-month project. The report relies on data from periodic outcome, outputs and activities reporting worksheets; experiences of the implementing team and a evaluation exercise carried out at the end of the project where 132 households and 9 focus group discussions were interviewed. Among the 132 household interviewees, 116 were women while 16 were men. Youth comprised of 11.3% of the total interviewees. UDO used random sampling criteria to select the participants.

The Covid-19 project, mainly targeted vulnerable household who their livelihoods were highly affected by C-19 crisis. 88% of the beneficiaries were female headed while 12.12% were male headed household

According to the evaluation, 84.8% of the participants consider farming as their main economic activity, followed by self-employment mostly the local business establishments 6%, casual work 5% and those employed at two (2%) percent. Due to lack of employment, youth are also engaging in farming to earn income to cater for their needs.

Through the Covid-19 response project, UDO distributed seed to vulnerable households 5136Kgs of assorted certified seed. 4613 (female 3831, male 782) household were supported with different varieties of drought tolerant seed such as green grams, cowpeas, indigenous vegetables, lablab and posture/fodder seeds. Out of 5136 kgs purchased, 158 kgs were indigenous vegetables distributed to 1242 (female 992, Male 250) households. Rainfall were good during OND  season, farmers recorded buffer harvest, especially for maize, cowpeas and beans.  Those who received 2kgs of beans harvested an average of 75 to 80 kgs , all beneficially kept aside 2 to 3 kgs as seed for planting during MAM rainy season. The participants were trained on nursery and kitchen garden establishment. Kitchen gardens have highly improved the diet of the farmers during this period of Covid 19 pandemic and reduced the cost of buying vegetable in the market. Farmers saved the money used to purchase vegetable in the market.


According to the data gathered during evaluation, the number of Village Saving and Lending Associations (VSLA) conducting weekly savings meetings is 52 against a target of 50 providing loans/credit to  members.  The number financial linkages created between groups and other lending institutions to support access to credit were two against a target of three. VSLAs play an important role in providing financial services to communities mainly savings and access affordable credits. They have bridged the financial gap which was occasioned by COVID 19 pandemic on whereby members either lost their source of income or it was adversely affected. The survey findings showed that 79% of the interviewed participants belong to a VSLA while 21% did not. Out of those who belonged to a VSLA, majority were women. However, we noticed that there is an increase of 8% of men joining VSLA due government restriction on Covid -19 where many people especially lost their job went back to rural areas. Participants said that, VSLA have improved their livelihood through accessing loans which has enabled them to engage in income generating activities such as poultry and goat keeping, starting small groceries, purchasing farm inputs, purchasing food, water tanks, paying school fees and meeting other household needs.

The number of chicken distributed was 450 against a target number of 400. 250 ( Female 187 & Male 63) vulnerable households were supported with chicken. We purchased more chicken than the target because some local chicken were cheaper compared to improved once. The households that benefited from the chicken look forward to multiply the poultry and be able to earn good income from the enterprises. Meanwhile some households are already enjoying better dietary choices from chicken eggs with few by now selling eggs to cover household expenses. 71 Trainings on poultry and goat management were conducted. The trainings were done to 67 farmers groups against a target of 60 groups. 19  ( Female 6 & 13 male)  project staff  were also trained on the latter.  These trainings were conducted to share knowledge and information and hence ensure sustainability of the project activities


61 VSLA groups  with a total of 1309 ( Female 1108, Male 201)  members were supported with galla goats. We received 1 goat as a discount from the supplier. In total 301 goat against target of 300 were purchased and distributed to VSLA groups.   The aim of supporting the VSLA groups was to build their VSLA kitty to enable them access loan even during the difficult time. VSLA members agreed that they will breed the goat and each member will have atleast one goat, to boost their kitty, they will be selling the goats and draw money back to the kitty, they will also use the galla goat to upgrade their local goats.

The survey findings pointed out that no one among the 132 participants sold land for the last 6 month duration of project implementation. It is good to note that one person indicated to have send children to beg for food while two people indicated to having sold the last female animal to cope with the economic situation. 26 % of the survey participants disclosed that Covid-19 had impacted in their sources of livelihood and that 81% of the participants admitted to have had their sources of income changed for the last six months as a result of Covid-19 livelihood response project.



Gender equality integration and women’s empowerment

According to the survey, 87% of the women interviewed viewed farming as their main economic activity while 69% men did so. The agricultural trainings were conducted with consideration with this aspect of gap that mostly occurs by viewing smallholder farming as a woman activity. All men and 98.3% of the women, interviewed acknowledged having been involved in agricultural training. All men interviewed confirmed to have received extension services from the Utooni Development Organization either through farm visit or posters, with 87.3% of women interviewed also having same opinion.

There was also noted significant difference in membership to VSLAs. Out of the total number of men interviewed those who belonged to VSLA were found to be 62.5% with their women counterparts having 77.6% representation to VSLA membership. Both men and women agreed that decision making at the household level, there is consultation in all aspect of household affairs. The distribution of certified seeds, seedlings, poultry, goats and the trainings conducted on their management will lead to more economically resilient households in the medium and long-term.  According to women small animals such as goat and chicken are termed as women activities, so support of the poultry and goats to the households will largely improve economic power of women.

Environmental sustainability

When communities are restrained in one way or another to explore many available ways to earn income, they usually tend towards overlying on natural resources to earn income or run household related errands. All the activities therefore aimed to build the community’s economical resilience were as well good to save the environment.

The fodder tree seedlings distributed to the community groups will improve the ecosystem through, increased soil organics matter from their leaves felling and decomposition.

Climate change and COVID-19

The Covid-19 response project coincided with the October-November-December (OND) rain season which normally is considered the short rain but in reality is the long rain in Eastern part of Kenya.  The rains however were above  average and so the crops produce were high. The projects focus to train farmers through farm visits, posters and short message services (SMS)  on good agricultural practices like use of certified seeds, planting drought tolerant crops, diversification of agricultural enterprises, integrated pest management among other practices therefore was of big significance towards making the communities more resilient to effects of climate change.   The distribution of tree/fodder and fruit seedlings and the promotion of conservation agriculture practices will also contribute to making agricultural systems more resilient to climate change by reducing farming systems’ greenhouse gas emissions and enhance their role as carbon sinks. 


In several areas we saw household members locally coming up with hand washing machines that did not involve any use of hand to operate. The machines ranged from simple ones (figure 8) with water only to complicated ones with detergent outlet. One needed to just use feet to step on a bar which through a pulley system drew the water running. Stepping on another bar one gets either a detergent or disinfectant poured to her hands. It is really a good Idea fitting the circumstance. Other farmers used water with lemon as sanitizer.