Kenya: group hopes to end perpetual conflict in Turkana through agriculture
Dense thorny thickets of invasive Prosopis juliflora weeds characterize the vast fields near the Turkwel River at Katilu in the southern Turkana sub-county.
The shrub, which grows up to 15 meters tall, has a thick, rough gray-green bark that becomes scaly as the plant matures.
The plant, which has large, sharp thorns, reproduces by seed, often after they have passed through the digestive tracts of goats, camels, cattle and some wild herbivores, before the seed spreads through them. streams and areas of runoff during rain.
It is this thorny plant that now painfully bears witness to the murderous fields on the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties, where lives have been lost, livestock stolen and residents forced to flee due to ongoing armed conflict between the two. communities. .
“Turkana Police warriors and reservists occasionally engaged armed thieves from the neighboring community in these fields before they could cross the Turkwel River with stolen cattle or retreat when defeated,” Ms. Zipporah Emoni, a local.
However, over the past three years the region has enjoyed relative peace after successful disarmament.
But as this thorny shrub reminds locals here of the past and what once was, another set of plants tells them what the future holds.
Ms Emoni and 19 other residents, all victims of bandit attacks, formed the Green Angels Farm Group with a vision to transform this once battlefield into a productive farm.
“Since February of last year when we formed the group, we have cleared 10 acres through irrigation. We have planted various crops including watermelon, pepper, papaya, peanut, groundnut. , amaranth and black grayling (managu), ”Ms. Emoni explained.
As chair of the group, Ms Emoni said frequent droughts and lack of livestock left them vulnerable to hunger and famine with unreliable food relief distributions from government and humanitarian agencies whenever conflict. burst.
The group is determined to provide a reliable source of fresh food and income, a scenario that it hopes will save the region from relentless conflict.
The group’s determination has provided its members with a reliable supply of fresh produce and a steady income.
The watermelons have already earned them 120,000 shillings after selling them for 50 shillings per kilogram to hotels in Lokichar and Lodwar towns.
The group decided to reinvest the income back into the farm by buying more high-value crops, outsourcing labor to clear more land, as well as purchasing pesticides and fuel for their generator that pumps the land. water from the river.
Mr Vincent Bulinda, a member we found harvesting peanuts, said it was the first time they had ventured into this type of farming, the returns were already promising.
He said that since they started cultivating the soil has maintained high fertility levels and that they never thought about using fertilizers.
“However, we need the support of development partners and government in order to reliably supply our farm with water. Due to the high temperatures the soil does not hold water for a long time and it was a challenge for us to pump water everywhere with our generator because of the cost, ”he said.
There is a high demand for fresh food in Turkana, as many towns still depend on Kitale and Kapenguria for fresh farm produce, he explained.
Africare, through the Improved Approach to Community Nutrition Project in Turkana (impact), works with groups in Katilu and Turkwel neighborhoods to improve nutrition and access to healthy food by distributing free certified seeds for highly nutritious vegetables as part of the program.
According to Africare nutrition specialist Kassim Lubao, the organization, with funding from the Bayer Fund, is also seeking to improve access to water to enable farmers to comfortably plant and manage their crops to fight against malnutrition.
“In partnership with the Turkana County Government, we are working closely with a group of passionate and committed farmers to train them and help them adopt nutrition-sensitive agriculture to combat malnutrition,” Mr. Lubao.