Lockdown in Nairobi with Joseph
Joseph (sometimes affectionately known as “Yopsie”) is our man on the spot in Kenya. For those of you who have not yet met him, Joseph has been on the Escape team since 2008. For up to five months a year, he drives support in Kenya & Tanzania while we are biking and also keeps tabs on everything on the ground in East Africa when we are not there so that our tours run as smooth as silk during our season.
Outside our cycle touring season, Joseph works guiding private tours within East Africa and is part of a community volunteer group working with urban villages in Nairobi sharing ideas on how to clean up, plant trees, unblock waste from water ways etc.
So how is life in Kenya right now? In Joseph’s own words "2020 has been a unique year, first locust plagues, terrible flooding and now Covid 19”.
Currently travel within Kenya is restricted to local only. Nightly curfews from 7pm to 5am are in place and all public meetings are cancelled, churches, mosques and schools are closed. On the positive side most of Joseph's extended family live within Nairobi so keeping in touch has been possible and his daughter Cynthia has moved back home during the pandemic. Joseph has been keeping busy homeschooling their son Michael. He says it has been great as he is picking up what he missed the first time round!
Reported cases of coronavirus in Kenya are low. Unfortunately though, with Kenya’s borders closed and the tourism industry at a standstill, both Joseph and his wife Susan are not currently working and have been hit hard economically. They say that worry and uncertainty is what is affecting most people and they are living in hope that a cure will soon be found.
The economic effects of the absence of tourism and of the lockdown in East Africa are huge. There is no government support and for many people what they earn today will feed the family tomorrow - so staying home from work is not an option.
Another big concern facing Sub-Saharan Africa, with tourism at a standstill, is the protection of it's wildlife and National Parks. Unemployment and desperation leads to more poaching and the lack of tourist dollars means less rangers and anti-poaching teams on the ground.
The hope is for tourism to return in the near future to bring back those precious dollars that the wildlife, environment and people need.