River brings together warring neighbours

A maize plantation under irrigation at Mukutani, Baringo County. The farm has become a peace rallying point for two communities. (Kipsang Joseph, Standard)
The pain and trauma of the happenings of March 2017 is slowly fading away and locals moving on with life despite numerous challenges.

At Mukutani village at the border of Baringo South and Tiaty sub-counties, hundreds of locals from the Ilchamus and Pokot communities are now living together.

Of interest is a 153-hectare parcel of land where locals from both communities farm. The place looks lively as the people till their farms two years after the attack which claimed 11 lives.

During the attack, suspected bandits raided the village and made away with animals after engaging in a killing spree. Shops were looted and people forced to flee their homes.

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Shared water

Now, more than 100 families from both communities are involved in farming and they share irrigation water from River Murat which is channeled to the farm by gravity.

When Saturday Standard visited the area, the locals were busy digging trenches in the farms to to supply water to their crops.

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Gideon Kibon says the farming has allowed the two communities to co-exist. And they are happy. Part of the farm was part of Lodorok Irrigation Scheme started in 2010 by World Vision.

The scheme had been abandoned due to insecurity. Locals say with their return last year, they have decided to farm as this is their only means to get food.

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“We do farming together, the Pokot have their plots and the Ilchamus have theirs. We have been able to co-exist and share water from the river and we are happy,” Kibon says.

The County Government sent tractors to cultivate the farms early this year.

Through the farming many people, including the morans, have been busy working in the farms and not sitting under a tree idling away and planning to commit crime.

His hope is for the land under cultivation to be expanded and certified seedlings provided.

Margaret Seur, a mother of seven who lost her husband during the attack, is the chairperson of the project and sees it as a source of unity.

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Seur prays that the peaceful co-existence between the two communities lasts forever. Both communities, she says, were affected in one way or another by the perennial conflicts between them, and it is time they lived together as brothers and sisters.

“We both lost and have realised the need to live together. That is why we decided to come together and share the little available resources,” she says.

Muryo Domongang wants more activities to bring the two communities together.

Domongang says many farming activities have brought the people together. 

More support

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Assistant chief Wilson Oletapi says the communities have held meetings at the farm to discuss how to share resources. At least 112 families from both communities are engaged in farming.

“We decided to bring the two communities together through farming and the project has been of great help. We have seen people embrace one another,” Oletapi says.

The chief wants the county government to offer more support. The families, he said, only planted maize as they had no money to purchase seeds for other crops. Water melon and tomatoes do well in the area.

Locals however feel they have been neglected. Since September 2018 very little support has been accorded to them. The maize plantation is however infested with fall army warms and the locals claim they cannot afford pesticides to control the pest. 

A road from Marigat to Mukutani has been flooded and a health facility at Mukutani remains closed.

To access Mukutani, one uses a motorcycle and pays more than Sh1,000. Sick villagers have to go to Tangulbei, 15 kilometres away, and Marigat 60 kilometres away to get treatment.

The locals say the national county governments have ignored them.

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