Maize farms at  Wei Wei irrigation scheme in Sigor. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

The establishment of agricultural demonstration plots in West Pokot County is transforming livelihoods as more members of the pastoral community embrace crop farming.

The initiative backed by the government through Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) has also seen reformed cattle rustlers improve their living standards through agricultural activities.

The authority is employing a new technique where some plots have been identified for demonstrations at Weiwei Irrigation Scheme for food crop production to boost food security. The project has attracted former cattle rustlers who are now cultivating desolate lands to produce food and also generate income.

KVDA’s demonstration plots are supporting 255 households in Sigor to produce maize, beans, sorghum, millet, sunflower, green grams, watermelon, pawpaws, mangoes and fodder for livestock. Speaking at Sigor, KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos hailed the project terming its ‘a game-changer as it is a foundation of peaceful co-existence, food security, increased literacy levels and a vibrant economy.

“We are dealing with maize seed multiplication, which is sold to the Kenya Seed Company thus generating good income to the registered farmers and improving households living standards,” said Naporos.

Naporos said they are expecting 81 tonnes of maize seed from the 70-acre of land.

“We expecting to achieve a yield of between 20 to 25 bags of maize per acre. Irrigation allows prolonged growing of crops throughout the year unlike rain-fed agriculture,” he said.

He said the project is helping farmers build their capacity on latest techniques of smart farming that produce better yields.

“This has transformed livelihoods boosting social economy standards through wealth creation, coexistence among communities and also guarding the natural environment. Last year the scheme produced the best maize seed in the country. It has also become the food basket in the region producing cereals and pulses,” he said.

KVDA Chairman Mark Chesergon said the authority is supporting irrigation projects in the region.

“We are focused on sustainable crop production in the region that is largely semi-arid and shall expand crop production acreage,” he said. Joseph Lokomer, a reformed warrior turned farmer said the maize will help them avert hunger in the region.

“The government cannot supply relief food throughout. Whenever it comes, we receive rations that are not sustainable for a long time. With irrigation, we are now self-reliant. The surplus also generate income for us,” he said.

Weiwei Irrigation scheme Chairperson Mark Meut said the programme has reduced cattle rustling and banditry activities.

“We want to open up businesses and take children to school. Sigor was a corridor for cattle rustlers. The scheme will help uplift the lives of residents in Tiaty, Kacheliba and Turkwel to reduce raids menace,” he said.