Looking back – My reflections of the year WANGU MUTUA

"The year 2020 will for a long time to come remain a permanent mark of when so many things changed.

Just like anyone else, we had neatly packed 2019, finalised all our annual reporting and other end of year routines to start off the year 2020 in earnest. Plans had been done early enough as is best practice and then before we knew it, we had to wait a little bit as COVID had been reported in the region. We started re-planning and postponing activities trusting that this was passing soon. Unfortunately, this was not the case, governments in the region started putting in place lockdown measures. Watching international news made this even more scary. The biggest question was, if developed countries were having such a challenge, what would happen in the region and Africa as a whole.

While all this was happening, as Vi Agroforestry we encouraged staff to work from home. For the tasks that had to be done in the office, we allowed very minimal number of staff in the office. Still we thought this would be for a few weeks and after that everything will go back to normal. The old normal. But this was not to be. We had to quickly come to the realisation that this situation might be with us for a while to come and the sooner we adjusted to it, the better. The teams therefore got into action and started moving activities online. Trainings, webinars, meetings, parties, catch ups all moved online. It was now possible to attend an event on the other end of the globe ; not as a side participant who is not really felt but where everyone else is online with full engagement. These will definitely be norms that we will carry with us even beyond the current pandemic.

On the other hand we realised that it is very easy to have a blurry line between life and work. With children learning from home, this also meant that some of the staff were taking care of their children, supervising learning, while at the same time working and confined in their homes. Support was provided to staff on stress management emphasising also the need to remember to take breaks even when working from home. Overtime, most staff are gradually getting used to this new way of working although it can never replace being physically together. There is no bumping into each other along the corridor on your way to the photocopier and have little chit chat; or during coffee breaks etc.

But as Vi Agroforestry the transition to remote working would not have been this smooth if some of the work had not been done earlier. For quite sometime we had been asking ourselves, how can we minimise travels; hold proper online meetings with our teams who are scattered in different countries; minimise use of paper etc – largely guided by our environmental consciousness. This had triggered investment towards this direction in the organisation. For example, we had Microsoft TEAMS long before we actually knew how important it would be in our everyday work later on. 2020 has clearly made us make a big jump forward towards reducing our own carbon foot print.

Our partners. I just had to make that a complete sentence. Our partners are at the centre our mission as they are the farmer organisations who are supporting the farmers on the ground. If there is anything that the COVID pandemic has taught development world, is the need for partnership – genuine partnerships built on trust. We hear of organisations that had to completely shut down because staff had to leave and everything came to a halt. Vi Agroforestry did not have to do that. Local partner organisations are present on ground and continue to provide the much-needed support to smallholder farmers within their communities in the middle of the pandemic – even when there have been strict lockdowns.  Supporting local organisations to be strong makes even more sense now when faced by situations like we have seen in 2020.

Did you know that humans still need food even in pandemics? Did you know that a farmer has to grow food so other humans can have food even in pandemics? That farmer requires support to be able to feed humanity. Vi Agroforestry believes that providing a favourable policy environment for the farmer, equipping the farmer with knowledge on how to sustainably grow food and increase production will go along way in supporting humanity even as we wave through this pandemic and beyond.”


Deputy Regional Director