Turkana woos pastoralists into small-scale vegetable farming

Villagers in Lolupe, Turkana County, harvest spinach. Erstwhile pastoralists are now embracing vegetable farming to boost food security and household incomes. [Fred Kibor, Standard]

A county initiative to encourage farming is enhancing household incomes and food security in a semi-arid region known for drought.

The initiative dubbed "agri-nutrition farms" encourages villagers, long used to keeping livestock, to grow such vegetables as tomatoes, kale, spinach, cabbages, broccoli and carrots as way of improving their nutrition and income.

A six-acre demonstration farm has seen hundreds of villagers start experimenting with vegetable farming.

“We have, for years, depended on pastoralism, but we continue to lose the animals to drought.

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"But with this initiative we have something else to eat at home or sell," said Lepo Lorinyo, a beneficiary.

Many trying out

More villagers are trying out the new concept.

"At first we rejected the idea because we thought it would affect our grazing land and water. But now we know that it is our new beginning,” said Ekusi Muya.

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The concept has been a life changer for some villagers who no longer regard livestock as the main source of wealth.

“We now know that we can even pay school fees for our children without depending on livestock. Some of us now supply fresh vegetables to secondary schools unlike before when all foodstuffs were brought from outside the county,” said Charles Ichumar.

Establish more

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Agriculture Executive Chris Aletia said the county government would establish more model farms in the region and increase acreage of the project.

“The decision to establish agri-nutrition farms was informed by readily available markets, quick maturity of the crops chosen and diversifying sources of livelihoods for residents,” said Mr Aletia.

Speaking at Lolupe in Loima sub-county when he commissioned a food security project, the Agriculture executive said the county would help farmers get market for the vegetables in local institutions as well as offer expert advice.

“We will continue offering extension services to farmers and also impart knowledge on modern farming technologies. We must wipe out hunger in the region,” he said.

Aletia assured farmers that the county would help fight Fall Armyworm and ensure the pests do not threaten their newfound livelihoods. 

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He said his department would continue partnering with stakeholders such as Food and Agriculture Organisation, German Development Agency and World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure every arable part of the county is utilised.

Aletia said the county would work with WFP to distribute assorted foodstuff under the Sustainable Food System Programme to further enhance food and nutrition security.

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