Communities responses to combat the effects of Covid-19 on ASM groups

This section examines the adaptive strategies employed by artisanal mining groups in Kenya amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. From community initiatives to individual resilience efforts, explore how miners have diversified livelihoods and articulated their needs to weather the socio-economic impacts of the ongoing crisis.

ASM’s in Taita Taveta

By June 2020, COVID-19 had disrupted the livelihood of local communities significantly; some lost loved ones not just due to the pandemic but through other causes. But they were unable to observe cultural burial practices due to COVID-19 restrictions on numbers allowed at gravesites.

An interesting observation  ASMs across the three counties was that mining groups, when fully operational, actively sought to improve their own livelihoods and those of the surrounding communities. The respondents noted that their efforts to improve this remained the same as of October 2021 though many of these restrictions have been lifted.

In Western Kenya, it was common to find that they were keen on bringing about some sort of development or improvement of livelihoods for their surrounding communities. This was either through y paying school fees for those that were less fortunate or through the construction of a classroom.

Additionally, members of the communities gather funds together through small fundraisers and use the funds to build homes and toilets. In Taita-Taveta few groups have engaged in CSR activities for their surrounding communities. 

Still, miners remained resilient throughout the pandemic, they informed us of some measures they have taken to try and cushion themselves from the effects of the pandemic.

Crop Cultivation
The reduced numbers of shifts and miners at mine sites have resulted in them resorting to other means of survival, one such means is subsistence agricultural farming. Most miners we’ve spoken to have indicated that the pandemic has forced them to farm but only for sustenance, as they still harbour their preference for mining based on its returns. As indicated, this had reduced one year later and there was a revert back to mining activities.
Livestock Farming
In Kakamega, miners also resorted to livestock farming, which has seen them rearing cattle, pigs and poultry. Livestock farming helped miners provide for their families., A few do it for commercial purposes.

Table Banking

Miners in Kakamega informed us that some of them had picked up on table banking structures that existed before but have become more active now as a way of coping with the pandemic. Miners informed us that they have not received any support from the national or county government, only few reported having received awareness information from the Ministry of Health with respect to COVID-19.

A few mining groups reported having received support from private organizations or NGOs, in so far as PPE’s. We sought to find out what support mining groups would like to receive from either government or private stakeholders.The majority of the respondents identified that machinery and equipment were the most important needs to them. This was still the case when interviews were conducted in October 2021.

Markets were the second  most important need to their groups. They cited a lot of interference by middlemen and cartels,  or brokers in so far as determining product prices. Mining groups felt that given the chance, if they could sell their minerals directly to local or international markets,  this would give them a better vantage point and fair value for their minerals.

Mining groups then identified finances as the third most important need for them, followed by financial literacy, then food and water.

Geological information though a need, together with access to electricity, formalization (issuance of licenses and permits) came in as some of the last priorities but equally as valuable.