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Athlete turns to jiko-making to ward off biting coronavirus

By Gibo Zachary
Thursday, July 16th, 2020
Dominic Ndigiti celebrates after winning Africa title last year. Photo/PD/ZACHARY GIBO

Before Covid-19 pandemic changed our world, athletes like Dominic Ndigiti,  Africa’s 10,000m walking race champion, was going about his normal training routine in his rural home in Kisii in readiness for various local and international competitions.

Ndigiti was preparing for three major global — the 2020 World Athletics Under-2020 Championships in Nairobi in July, the 22nd African Athletics Championships in June in Algeria and, most significantly, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, between July 24 and August 9.

However, when the spread of Covid-19 escalated to frightening levels, Kenya joined many other countries in taking drastic action to slow its transmission.

The country, in  implementing the measures in order to prevent the spread of the virus, imposed a curfew from 7pm to 5am, banned movements in and out of major affected areas in the country and suspended all international flights, among others,  leaving the lives of many people and in this context, athletes, in limbo.

Ndigiti, 20, like many of his colleagues was caught off guard and faced significant challenges in securing a future.

Dominic Ndigiti displays one his finished jikos. Photo/PD/ZACHARY GIBO

Ndigiti had relied purely on athletics to provide for his family but with the pandemic affecting his career, he had to struggle to cater for his loved ones.

“Coronavirus has really affected me this year. I was eager to run the World Under-20 Championship in Nairobi as a final international event in the junior category but because of the pandemic, I have missed the opportunity since I will not be able to take part in the race next year because of age.

However, I’m a believer in one thing. If you do your best, God opens bigger doors for you.

So I’m positive, I know I have like 15 years in the walking race before I turn to marathon, so I want to win gold medals in major international events.

I want to try and win an Olympic gold medal in senior category, which is my ultimate dream before I retire,”  Ndigiti said in an exclusive interview with People Sports.

With the future unclear and no races insight, many athletes have resorted to different income generating activities to survive.

For the former World Under-18 bronze medallist, he decided to venture into jiko (stove) making business in his rural home in Kisii to earn a living.

Relying on  childhood skills that he had learned making traditional jikos before he ventured into athletics, Ndigiti started small, making jikos from sand and getting orders within his locality. 

However, thanks to a group of foreigners from Finland who came to Nyaore Polytechnic to train locals and youth on different life skills, the African champion enrolled in the training and after the acquiring advanced skills in the trade, Ndigiti started to apply them, making modern multipurpose jikos from cement and within no time, his business started to grow. As we speak, demand for his services has now reached countrywide.

“My business is thriving for sure. It’s growing thanks my great friends in media and training I received from a group of great people of Finland who had visited our village to train the youth in various handwork skills.

Through the industry and social media, now people all over the country, and even outside the country, are surprisingly seeking my services.

It’s exciting and fulfilling especially in this tough economic times occasioned by the pandemic, since I’m able to meet some of the basic needs for my family,” he added.

From Kisii, Ndigiti’s booming business is now in Nakuru, Laikipia, Machakos, Kisumu, Nandi, Kakamega, Nyeri, Mumias and Eldoret, among other counties.