Turkana women now embrace farming to improve their livelihoods
It is early Thursday morning. The bright sun has risen.
The terrain in Turkana County is mostly dry and rocky. Loose soils, devoid of ground vegetation fill the sparsely populated land. It has harsh climatic conditions, characterised by extremely high temperatures and minimal rainfall that has made crop farming in the area difficult.
The Turkana people are mainly pastoralists who rely on livestock keeping as their main source of livelihood. Communities often walk for long distances in search of water and pasture for their livestock.
As pastoralists take their herds to look for pasture, life is different for Maria Apem. Maria, a mother of five from Natoot village is a farmer.
She joined Natoot Irrigation Scheme after famine and severe drought hit hard leading to the death of her Livestock.
She used to be a pastoralist, a charcoal burner and even sold wild fruits to earn a living. Travelling for long distances to access a market for her goods and the continued drought made her weary. She decided to be a farmer.
This uncharted journey was not easy for her at first because she was used to pastoralism which is practised by many from her community.
But a ray of hope shone in the offing.
Bright hope International in partnership with Full Gospel Churches of Kenya started an irrigation scheme to help the community to be self-reliant in terms of food and water. Maria was one of the 84 beneficiaries.
Maria grew tomatoes which she harvested three times as she saved the money for her son who was then a class, eight candidate.
Her son has joined Kabuyefwe Secondary School. She paid all his fees from the money she accrued from the sale of tomatoes. Now she joins other parents who can afford a smile having taken their children to school.
Farm Administrator Victor Juma advised that farming is the better option for the Turkana community.
"Farming is the only way to save Turkana. Those who can access water can do farming as you continue with pastoralism and increase income and get food for your families. This will, in turn, reduce cases of malnutrition in Turkana County," he said.
Currently, over 600,000 people in Turkana County are in dire need of relief food. Relevant stakeholders in the county are already distributing relief food and cash to the affected families.
According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) Turkana County's most affected areas are Lakezone, Kaeris, Kaaleng/Kaikor and Lapur Wards in Turkana North Sub-county, and Kerio, Kalokol and Kangathota in Turkana Central.
Others include Kalapata and Lokichar wards in Turkana South, Katilia and Kochodin in Turkana East as well as border villages in Loima and Turkana West.