Turkana charcoal sellers decry bad business due to Covid-19

Sales are low because hotels they relied on are closed due to the pandemic

In Summary
  • Traders said since the outbreak they have been unable to provide food for their families.
  • Traders appeal to the government, NGOs and well-wishers to distribute food to them since they are vulnerable.
Charcoal traders in Turkana
HARD TIMES: Charcoal traders in Turkana

Charcoal and firewood traders in Turkana are counting heavy losses following business disruptions by the coronavirus pandemic. 


The traders said since the outbreak they have been unable to provide food for their families as they do not get customers.


Awet Lokai, a resident and a charcoal dealer of Riamakor in Turkana North, said she could not supply firewood and charcoal to hotels.


“We normally survive on relief food from the government and non-governmental organisations. I opted to venture into the charcoal business and collecting firewood so that I could supply hotels to earn an income to support my family. But since the outbreak of Covid-19, all the hotels in the region have been shut down and I have nothing to depend on to feed my family,” she said.

Lokai appealed to the government, NGOs and well-wishers to distribute food to them since they are vulnerable.

She also urged the government to provide them with water, soap, sanitiser and face masks to protect them against the coronavirus.

Reginah Edukon, a resident and firewood dealer in Narengwoi in Turkana North, said her family was starving since the government ordered the closure of local hotels.

She said the coronavirus crisis had halted the business activities that they depended on.


“We respect the government measures to combat the Covid-19 but we should be considered in the programme of cash transfer and relief food distribution to cushion us from pangs of hunger because we are a vulnerable community," she said.

"The closure of local hotels in remote regions who are the only main buyers of charcoal and firewood is a blow to us.”


Edukon urged partners and the government to sensitise the community on coronavirus control and provide information to prevent the spread of the virus as many people were still uninformed.

John Ereng, a charcoal dealer in Lokitaung, complained that he stopped burning charcoal as buyers had stayed away due to the coronavirus scare and closure of hotels.

Cynthia Asibitar, a hotel owner at Riamakor, said she adhered to the government directives and closed her hotel to halt the spread of the virus. 

She welcomed the government directive for reopening hotels and restaurants but said it was expensive for workers to obtain Covid-19 certificates.

"We run local hotels in the community where we don't have the capacity to employ permanent workers. We normally work with casual staff. The decision of paying fees for the workers to test for Covid-19 will be hard for us. We can't commit to paying for workers who will not work with us for a long period," she said.

Hotels and restaurants had suspended their operations over coronavirus safety measures. The government announced that they could resume their operations but must adhere to strict measures to combat the spread of the virus.

In April, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said restaurants located in major towns could reopen between 5am to 4pm and observe health measures.

Edited by Henry Makori