Turkana governor has asked residents of arid and semi-arid regions to diversify into crop production to increase their financial gains instead of overrelying on local cattle breeds.
The county, governor Josephat Nanok said, had a huge potential for agriculture if sustainable ways to harness water were found to promote irrigated agriculture.
Water being a serious challenge in arid and semi-arid regions, Mr Nanok said he is planning to continue partnering with local and international organisations to provide access to clean water for domestic and industrial use.
He cited the ongoing ground water survey in the northern parts of the county being conducted by Unesco with funding from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
“Early results of this survey do indicate a discovery of significant rich water aquifers underneath. This can become handy in crop production and for the livestock,” the governor said.
The partners, he said, should extend a similar survey to the southern parts of the county where there is a likelihood of more ground water deposits to address perennial water challenges.
“The rich unexploited fertile soils and water resources, including Lake Turkana, that are available in this county are sufficient to make this county not only self-sufficient but, a breadbasket in future,” said Mr Nanok.
He said the county government plans to rehabilitate existing irrigation schemes and establish new schemes while focusing on new technologies for improved water use, retention and mechanisation.
“Water harvesting will be part of our agenda as we open up opportunities in fish production and promote value addition to our products,” said the governor.
Pastoralism, he admitted, remains the key economic livelihood of majority of county residents. But he emphasised on the value of encouraging the community to adopt emerging livestock-rearing techniques like stock management, which guarantee high profits compared to keeping many cattle that compete for little pasture and water, especially during dry seasons.
Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Turkana Branch chairman Peter Ejole said drought resistant crops like millet, sorghum, vegetables, cassava, potatoes, beans and aloe vera were suitable to address perennial food shortages in areas that experience harsh climatic conditions.