Turkana County guns for long-term food security
By Silah Koskei and Titus Too
| October 20th 2016
For a long time, the sun-baked fields of Turkana County have been associated with drought and starvation.
From the region, pictures of emaciated residents became quite common.
Food insecurity has been one of the greatest impediments to the growth of the arid region, forcing residents to solely depend on neighbouring counties for food supplies.
With devolution, the residents became hopeful that they could overcome the misery caused by starvation.
The county government, besides establishing major irrigation schemes, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with other members of the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) to ensure the region becomes food-secure.
Under the economic bloc, the eight counties give priority to agriculture as one of their focus areas to enhance food security in the whole region.
And now Turkana will benefit from the agricultural potential of neighbouring counties such as Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia as per the MoU.
The bloc brings together Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans Nzoia, Baringo, Turkana, West Pokot, Nandi and Samburu, which signed a pact in 2015.
The counties have jointly explored soil potential and weather that is suitable for production of food in the region.
The crops to be grown include maize, sorghum, millet, beans and potatoes (sweet and Irish) that mature early. The full implementation of the partnership, which has been delayed by lack of legislation, will allow counties with a food deficit to rely on those with a surplus.
Major achievements by the county in cushioning residents from hunger include the establishment of a 65-acre Napuu 1 Drip Irrigation Scheme in Nawoitorong, Turkana Central constituency, that hosts over 100 farmers in a bid to prevent over-reliance on relief supplies.
The county has also erected plastic tanks with a capacity to store over 10,000 litres of water drawn from the aquifer and connected to electricity to pump water to the farms that are fenced away from animals’ reach.
Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno said a draft policy paper for Noreb members on agriculture partnership had been established and will be adopted once the county assemblies approve it.
He added that the region has potential for organic farming that has not been exploited to the maximum even as they expedite plans to ensure locals benefit from the venture.
“As Noreb bloc, we want to explore the agricultural potential in the region that will ensure sustainable food security is achieved. Our food basket must feed the people and boost the region’s economy,” said Mr Chemno.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok said his administration took advantage of the discovery of aquifers in the region to invest in agriculture.
“Boosting food security through irrigation is one of the undertakings we made when we formed the government and is highlighted in the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP),” said Mr Nanok.
Bumper yields in some zones in Kenya, famine in othersFarmers in Limuru, compared to counties such as Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Taita Taveta, Garissa and Wajir where residents are facing starvation, are making harvests enough to cater for both their domestic and commercial needs.
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