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Ex-cattle rustlers lay down arms, turn focus on farms

A farmer in Kainuk, Turkana County, harvests sorghum. Farming is thriving after banditry attacked ended. [Fred Kibor, Standard]

Farmers in banditry-prone regions of Tiaty West subcounty in Baringo are reaping from agricultural activities that have boosted their livelihoods.

Partnerships of Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), the Christian Impact Mission (CIM) among others are supporting residents through agricultural activities to transform their lives.

Implementation of agricultural projects has helped to change mindsets of residents in areas associated with banditry and cattle rustling.

Small-scale farming programmes have seen more than 1,000 households across the wards in transformation initiatives geared towards food, water, social and financial security.

One of the projects is dubbed operation “Tpu Kle Out”, where farmers dig dams locally known as Silanka to fight perennial hunger and learn as well as practise irrigation.

The pastoralist residents, formerly cattle rustlers, have turned to planting vegetables, maize, cassava, sugarcane and mangoes.  

The programme that involves mobilizers and champions in community clusters has so far seen a drastic reduction in cases of cattle raids.

This follows exposure tour and training at the Yatta transformational centre, which was organised four years ago and has helped them fight hunger and drought by educating residents on suitable and sustainable modes of agriculture.

Among the villages that have benefited from the programme in Kibkwo, Kolowa and Tiaty wards are Mosolion, Maron, Ngoron, Chemolingot, Kolowa Lokadir and Chepturu.

Speaking on Monday during farm visits in the villages, CIM founder Bishop Dr Titus  Masika noted that the commercial village model for agribusiness has started and as a lead agency, CIM will champion it as a contributor to regional security.

“Cases of cattle rustling and banditry have reduced, thanks to varied initiatives geared towards transforming those involved,” said Bishop Masika.

Masika said the programme has enabled residents to have sufficient food and water supply.

 “Water was a constant problem within the area. Due to the area being semi arid, people walked for more than 20km daily in search of water,” he said.

The cleric said there is a need for opening up roads for farmers to sell their produce.

KVDA Agribusiness Manager David Biwott said the authority has posted an extension officer at Kolowa and given out 2,000 mango seed to farmers.

He said they want to reverse the image of hunger into a supplier of food to the entire North Rift.

Tiaty West Deputy County Commissioner Benson Karani said it is the ideal time for the region to engage the majority of youth who had abandoned cattle raids and banditry.

National Irrigation Board representative Engineer  Daniel Bundotich said they have irrigated 120 small dams to eradicate hunger.

Farmer Everlyline Pkemei, who started planting crops in 2010 after a week's training, said the frequent appeal for relief food could be prevented and that the majority of the pastoralist community are willing to adopt farming.

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