Lean times for public as virus hits incomes

As Covid-19 effects hit hard, some Kenyans have devised ways of surviving through lean times.

With as little as Sh150, families are buying what is absolutely necessary in the smallest units possible.

Effects of the pandemic have seen people lose jobs, some sent on compulsory unpaid leave while others have taken pay cuts.

“Coronavirus has put us in a dilemma to the extent we don’t know what will happen the next day. Normal activities are now in abeyance, as we gamble with our livelihoods,” said Joseph Otieno, a juakali artisan.

Mr Otieno, who lives in a single roomed house at Kwaronda slums in Nakuru, said food takes the lion’s share of his daily earnings.

“In a day, I can spend Sh200 on food for my family, which to me is far beyond my means. Previously when business was good, spending more than that was not a big deal,” he told The Standard.

The jua kali artisan says he purchases a quarter kilogram of sugar for Sh30, sukuma wiki (kale) for Sh30, a kilogram of maize flour for Sh50, cooking oil for Sh20, charcoal for Sh40 per tin, and spices.

“It is tough, but we have gotten used to it after several months of struggling,” says the father of seven.

Alfred Kinyua, a clerical officer in a government parastatal, says he has also been hit hard by the pandemic and has embraced survival tactics.

“Some of us have been forced to take a pay cut by our employers in order to survive the tough times. We do not know when this will end,” he tells The Standard.

He says he has resorted to buying foodstuff in small quantities from shops on a daily basis since he cannot afford to do bulk shopping in supermarkets like he did before.

“I used to shop in supermarkets, but this changed following the outbreak of coronavirus and now I limit my purchases so that I can survive the tough times,” he says.

But all is not gloom, as Maria Njoki, who operates a makeshift vegetable kiosk, is cashing in on the sudden inflow of clients.

“We have seen an increase in customers for the last four months, which has seen me record good sales. This is expected to continue until the pandemic ends,” said Ms Njoki, who operates in Langa Langa estate.

Measure the quantity

However, the mother of five, who has been in the business for the past seven years, says despite the good sales, the high cost of transport has eaten into the profits.

“Yes, we record good sales, but our main impediment to making more profits is high transport costs. This has really eaten into our profit margins and at times, it takes part of our working capital as I deal in perishable goods,” Njoki says.

She adds that traders face different challenges owing to the prevailing tough times, which has forced clients to buy goods in small quantities.

“We measure the quantity of goods according to what the customer can afford,” she said.

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