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Greener pasture for cattle rustler who ditched his gun for the jembe

By Lucas Ngasike | August 4th 2021
Mr Lokaale Lokitowo, 42, accompanied by his son at their one-acre farm at Kang'alita in Turkana [Lucas Ngasike, Standard]

At the age of 10, Lokaale Lokitowo only knew an AK-47 as his walking stick as he traversed the torturous bushes and hills of Turkana.

However, life took a different turn when Lokitowo, now 42, abandoned his gun to embrace farming at Kang’alita Irrigation Scheme in a remote part of Turkana County.

“Since my childhood, I have been on battlefields, killing people at will in order to acquire wealth. We used to steal livestock from our neighbours and distribute them among ourselves. The business was lucrative, but dangerous,” Lokitowo recalls.

He says he called it quits after several of his friends died on the battlefield.

“I lost around 20 of my good friends when we tried to steal cattle from the neighbouring West Pokot County. We were led into an ambush and I narrowly survived. Thank God, I am alive now,” he says.

He has a bullet scar on his right knee as a painful reminder of that raid. He says his tribulation worsened when he returned home and found that his father had also died.

“I was shocked when villagers told me that my father died several months back due to an illness. This was a double tragedy. It was hard for the community to accept me back. I found no value in owning an illegal gun anymore,” says Lokitowo.

Lokitowo says he fled to unfamiliar territories in search of greener pastures after surrendering the gun to the local area administrators.

“I trekked for more than 50km and visited the chairman of the Lojokobwo Irrigation Scheme. I explained to him my predicament, and he agreed to allocate me a parcel of land,” he says.

Large-scale farmer

“I learned farming from other members of the community. I am happy that my life was transformed since I am able to put food on the table and fend for my family.”

Since he started farming, Lokitowo says he has planted a variety of crops in his one-acre farm, including cow peas, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, groundnuts and watermelon.

Lokitowo says his ambition is to become a large-scale farmer and increase his food production to feed the rest of Kenya.

Kang’alita Irrigation Scheme Chairman Thomas Iko says they have registered more than 1,000 pastoralists as farmers to benefit from the scheme.

“We are integrating the community to adopt smart farming. We are planning to expand the scheme from 500 hectares to 1,000 to accommodate other beneficiaries who don’t have farms. Our focus is to ensure we attain sustainable food security in the region,” Iko says.

He says at least 295 community members need land.

Iko lauds the county government and development partners that have been supporting the community in the food and nutrition security project.

“With the support from the development partners, we have transformed the community to embrace farming in addition to their traditional livestock rearing activities. We want to move them from relief food dependency to food sufficiency and self-reliance,” he says.

The chairman notes that poor road networks have hindered pastoralists from accessing markets for their farm produce.

World Food Programme (WFP), through USAid support, has embarked on plans to boost food security in Turkana in a bid to alleviate hunger and high level of malnutrition.

WFP Country Director Lauren Landis, who toured Turkana recently to assess food security in the region, said they have agreed to implement a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between them and the county government signed in 2019 on sustainable food systems.

According to the latest Famine Early Warning Network–Kenya, the country is on the verge of a drought that may significantly affect food security in some country’s food basket areas.

Turkana Deputy Governor Peter Lotethiro said WFP had agreed on a joint food security project, which will be implemented by the county government.

“We appreciate the support offered by development partners in Turkana for transforming lives through humanitarian assistance and sustainability.

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