Irony of starving locals in the county of plenty

A farmer at work in Perkerra Irrigation Scheme.

Perkerra Irrigation Scheme in Marigat, Baringo County is known for producing plenty to feed locals and people in the neighboring counties.

Marigat market is always busy as people from as far as Lomelo in Turkana and Kapedo along the Baringo-Turkana visit to buy food.

At Perkerra Irrigation Scheme 2,500 acres of land is under irrigation and over 1500 farmers engage in farming. The seasonal River Perkera supplies water to the irrigation scheme.

Maize is the main crop and farmers’ also plant water melon, onions and vegetables.

However, one would believe life here is at its best until you realise the contrasts of the county. A 51-minute drive North will take you to the drought-ravaged parts of Tiaty. Here locals stare at starvation. Marigat and Tiaty are two different worlds.

In Marigat, the vegetation is green while in Tiaty cactus has colonised the area.

Tiaty would have benefited from food supplies from Perkerra and Murda Irrigation Scheme but farming is not subsistence.

Perkerra Irrigation Scheme chairperson Weston Laanoi said farmers have no food in their stores. At Perkerra, most farmers have been contracted by Kenya Seeds Company (KSC) to grow seeds.

What remains is ‘male’ produce that is not enough to sustain families.

“We plant maize for seed production and sell everything that remains, the males after supplying the females to KSC is what we consume,” said Laanoi. He added they are suffering and get agitated whenever trucks ferrying maize pass through Marigat.

Land lies idle

Laanoi said a farmer can remain with about four bags of maize per acre after selling seeds to KSC. Some of the maize is sold to pay school fees and the rest is consumed by the family.

The scheme he said would have been an integral part of Baringo County economy but over the years, it has been hit by water shortage and most farmers now depend on rain.

Laanoi wishes the government would invest in a dam in the area to support irrigation.

Most of the land lies idle due to water shortage.

“We have the potential to supply food to various counties but with water shortage, we have been limited to engaging in farming only during the rainy season,” he said.

Dickson Lekesio, the Murda Irrigation Scheme chairman said they plant purely for sale. Subsistence farming he said is not lucrative.

The price of Sh800 per bag of maize has made farmers opt to engage in commercial farming of seeds. KSC buys a 90kg bag of seed for Sh6,000.

Lekesio blames the situation on failure by government to streamline maize prices.

He said if they had adequate water supply to sustain farming during the dry season they would do grow other crops after harvesting maize.

“We would be doing farming all time but we have a problem we don’t have enough water,” he said.

Murda Irrigation Scheme covers over 1, 000 acres.

In Tiaty there is no irrigation scheme and efforts to up the same are yet to bear fruit.

Saturday Standard established that there is irregular expenditure of funds on mitigating drought over the years.

Audit reports over the years have shown lack of accountability of funds for construction of water pans.

A 2014/2015 Constituency Development Fund Audit showed that Sh19,792,800 grant meant for constructing water pans could not be accounted for.

“Included in other grants and transfers is water project expenditure amounting to Sh19,792,800, however no expenditure returns have been presented to confirm whether projects were undertaken and their status as at June 30, 2015,” read the audit report.

Further in the 2015/2016 Financial Year, an expenditure of more than Sh26 million for construction of a water pan at Cheptuyun village could not be accounted for.

Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis said Tiaty which is approximately 4,540.48 square kilometres has no irrigation scheme. He regretted that 80 per cent of the 115 water pans had dried up making it difficult for locals to access water.

“We have no irrigation scheme here and 80 per cent of the 115 water pans constructed over the years by the county have dried up, very few have water,” Mr Kiptis said.

Silale Ward MCA Nelson Lotela said Tot-Kolowa irrigation scheme on the border of Pokot and Marakwet has been vandalised after Kerio River dried up.