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The other side of West Pokot, you probably didn’t know

UREPORT
By Joylene Singoei | April 28th 2015

Most pastoral communities in Kenya depend on livestock for their livelihood. In West Pokot County, cattle keeping is the backbone of the economy.  It is this daily activity that has given birth to a retrogressive practice, cattle rustling.

And for this reason, every time one hears news from West Pokot, the first thing that crosses their mind is bloodletting raids and banditry.

It is true that for many decades, the region has been plagued by incessant cattle raids with its neighbours especially from Turkana. The practice has brought unfathomable suffering to victims, and has left a trail of destruction.

But in the midst all these, there is the other untold side of Pokot where residents engage in crop and dairy farming. The place is Lelan. It is approximately 75 kilometres from Kapenguria and is located in Pokot South constituency.

Residents here rear livestock and practice crop farming.  Crops that do well including potatoes, passion fruits, maize and vegetables.

Dairy farming is another source of income for residents. And in 2013, Brookside Dairy brought fortune to dairy farmers by building two milk cooling plants at Tapach and Kaptalamwa on the West Pokot-Marakwet border.

The plants have already spurred economic growth in the region due to the readily available market. It has also cemented peace in the region that experienced bloody clashes in the past between Marakwets and Pokots.

The two communities now have new streams of income, unlike before when they solely depended on produce from cows, goats and sheep. Fresian cows have become  a common figure in every homestead. The returns have motivated them to invest in milk production that was in the past meant for just home consumption.

Even poor infrastructure has not dimmed their determination to be the leading milk producing region in the county. During the day, there is a beehive of activities along footpaths that snake their way due to the topography of the region. Women are spotted leading donkeys with milk hanging in plastic containers as they head to the cooling plants.  

Apart from dairy farming, residents have embraced crop farming. As you walk through the neatly fenced green fields in Lelan, passion fruits will capture your sight.

These farmers are widening the potential of Lelan albeit numerous challenges bedevilling them.

Getting market for the produce is not easy and both national and county governments should help such farmers because it will in turn fight insecurity, poverty, hunger and other social evils.

Potatoes also flourish well although in small quantities. Their market include  food eateries in the centres and also leading hotels in Makutano.

West Pokot is categorised under the Arid and Semi-Arid lands (ASAL) regions. Clearly, Lelan has many untapped potential and could be turned the bread basket of the county and country at large.

Many times when drought strike, several parts of pokots are not spared. Empowering such farmers would be a milestone in mitigating hunger in the region and fighting cattle raids

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