Pastoralists in Marsabit venture into vegetable and fruit farming

Communities in Northern Kenya have for long relied on rearing of livestock as their main source of livelihood and with reports of drought in the region, government agencies have been sent into panic mode with fears of death and massive relocation in the coming days.

However, small village in the semi-arid area of Marsabit County has emerged as the source of fresh produce and fruits despite the harsh weather in the arid county.

Farmers from Kinisa village, Moyale sub-county have shifted from pastoralists and are currently the main supplies of the fresh produce in a region that has recorded perennial droughts in the past.

The change has been achieved by Strengthening the Resilience of the Livelihoods of Agro-Pastoralists in Eastern Africa (SRAPLEA) programme which drilled a major borehole that is currently serving the farmers and pastoralists from the neighboring country of Ethiopia.

Under the programme by Welthungerhilfe (WHH) which is funded by the German  Federal  Ministry For Economic Cooperation and  Development  (BMZ),  cases of conflict, malnutrition and hunger are now turning out to be a thing of the past in the communities.

According to WHH project coordinator Dr. Antony Kibata, the programme had targeted cross-border-communities living in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

He said that the three-year pilot project has focused on communities that are most vulnerable and marginalized but still have the potential to regenerate their resilience.

He pointed to Kinisa water project, noting that the borehole drilling in 2019 had positively changed the residents’ lives, with tens of pastoralists turning to farming.

The borehole currently yields 36,000 cubic litres of water per hour supporting over 40,000 families in the area and neighboring pastoralists from Ethiopia.

Kibata said that their partner Pastoralist Community Initiative and Development Assistance (PACIDA) implemented the project and this has changed the fortunes of residents.

 “After drilling the borehole, the community was provided with a solar-powered system, which is less costly compared to the generator previously used,” he said.

One of the beneficiaries Dahabo Mamo admitted that their lives were tough and unfair as they traveled for kilometers in search of water before the borehole was drilled.

With a smile on her face, she said that their families were now assured of three daily meals, education and other basic amenities thanks to the ongoing farming.

Mamo added that the fresh produce had a ready market due to the harsh weather conditions in the area and thanks to the water project donors.

“This water is being used by the locals and our neighbors from Ethiopia and it has turned our sufferings to celebrations as our produce is ever on-demand,” she said.

According to Amina Isako from PACIDA, malnutrition cases have dropped sharply due to the fresh produce’s availability.

Amina attributed the gains to the Strengthening the Resilience of the Livelihoods of Agro-Pastoralists in Eastern Africa programme that has empowered the pastoralists.

She notes that with water provision from the borehole, many of the residents are now seeking to expand the land under irrigation.

“Previously under nutrition levels were very high, but we have seen a major change thanks to the ongoing farming in Kinisa area,” she says.

The chairman, Kinisa water borehole, Isaac Hassan terms the borehole as a blessing and best gift ever to area residents who have clashed over water for years.

While thanking Welthungerhilfe and PACIDA, he says that the water kiosks and water troughs are well managed by residents with congestion now a thing of the past.

“The only challenge we have is lack of water for nearby schools, but currently we have every reason to smile due to this water project,” he says.

Kinisa chief Mohammed Hassan terms the water project as God-sent as it has improved the livelihoods for tens of families and food security in the area thus improving their health.

 “We have enough water for our livestock and vegetables for residents and cases of community clash due to lack of water is now a thing of the past,” he said


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