Monthly Archives: December 2013
Pastoralists in northern Kenya are slowly leaving livestock rearing for crop farming following recurrent droughts that have wiped out their animals.
Adan Fayo from Merti in Isiolo County is one among such herders who opted out of livestock rearing into farming. He is among the ex-herders who joined hands and created furrows along Ewaso Nyiro River and ventured into large scale farming. “We formed groups and diversified our livelihood from pure pastoralism into crop and vegetable farming,” said Fayo.
He said some of the pastoralists like him were forced to join the group after the World Food Programme reduced the number of relief food beneficiaries and later stopped supplying relief food to hunger stricken families in the area.
Fayo said the number of herders joining the Jalla Jallalu farm was growing after the Merti Integrated Development Programme, a local NGO operating in the region, offered free seeds to farmers through the support of Catholic Organisation for Relief Development and Aid. He said the group was targeting 2,000 hectares of land from the current 1,000 that hosts 700 ex-herders.
Merti Integrated Development Programme chief executive Jillo Shande said the farmers have started harvesting and marketing their farm produce to larger towns in Isiolo and Meru County. He said herders will also be advised on venturing into drought resistant crops.
The ex-herders’ success stories come three months after the Ministry of Agriculture with African Development Bank launched a $64 million drought resilience and sustainable livelihoods programme in Isiolo.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei said the project is geared towards food security as well as providing Kenyans in the arid and semi-arid areas opportunities for generating income and creating wealth.
He said his ministry was working towards ensuring that every county produces a surplus of food for its own use and builds community resilience by providing the enabling environment for investment and sustainability.
Koskei was addressing in Isiolo during the commissioning of the resilience and sustainable livelihood project that targets Marsabit, Turkana, Isiolo, Baringo and Samburu counties on Nov. 30.
He said the new project is anchored on the first pillar of the first medium term plan for vision 2030 supporting the development of agriculture and livestock sub-sectors to enhance food, industrial crop and livestock production in arid and semi-arid areas.
Koskei regretted that over 10 million Kenyans suffer chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition as result of drought and flood in the country. “We are going to employ advanced technologies such as irrigation, water harvesting and feed conservation measures under this erratic weather patterns in arid areas to ensure better production,” Kosgey said.
He said the government recognized that subsistence farming had failed and that there was need to start a revolution in the agricultural sector to spur the area into economic and viable for commercial benefit.
Controversy is brewing between the Government and residents of arid and semi-arid zones over plans to roll out giant irrigation projects.
The government has been asked to priorities roads, security, markets and assures residents that the irrigation is not just targeting crops but livestock production as well. “The government should tread carefully to avoid causing more conflicts by targeting large chunks of land with irrigation projects when the locals prefer them to remain as feeding grounds for their animals,” Dr Mohammed Elmi, Tarbaj MP, told a forum on irrigation in dry lands in Nairobi last week.
According to leaders from the arid regions, pastoralism is the economic mainstay of the residents and its development should be given priority. “Going for large pieces of land would plunge the country into conflict. The devil is in the details. Some people are occupying territories of other counties, hence the need for wide consultations,” said Dr Elmi.
Without better roads and markets for the farm produce investment in irrigation could be a wild-goose chase. “Security has been thrown to the dogs. There is no government presence to deal with conflicts affecting pastoralists. We have fruits that rot before we access markets due to poor roads,” Dr Elmi said.
The government plans to irrigate one million hectares to scale up food production through irrigation, a plan that has been allocated Sh11 billion this financial year.
The National Irrigation Board (NIB) should seek the views of local residents on projects that are dear to them in order for the initiatives to succeed, the leaders said. Mr Abdirahman Issack, a policy advocacy officer at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development for pastoral areas and livestock development faulted the government for mainly thinking of crops when planning irrigation projects.
According to Mr George Odedeh from NIB, irrigation would not replace livestock farming as it was just part of the solutions to the woes bedeviling communities living in dry lands.
Currently, irrigation plays a crucial role in horticulture, Kenya’s second foreign exchange earner. “Irrigation would produce 3-4 times more than what can be realized through rain-fed agriculture. But insecurity in the arid areas would slow down the projects,” said Mr Odedeh.
Kenya’s irrigation potential stands at 765,000 hectares, according to the national water master plan 2013, but only 150,000 hectares are under irrigation.