Politics and policy
Kerio Valley turns to fruits after years of cattle rustling
Posted Tuesday, June 19 2012 at 19:31
Kerio Valley farmers are migrating from livestock keeping to horticulture, thanks to attractive prices and the ready market.
Livestock keeping, because of rampant cattle rustling, has exposed them to armed conflicts with their neighbours over pasture.
They are growing bananas, pawpaws, mangoes and cassava under furrow irrigation, putting them in the race to benefit from the Sh8 billion the Treasury allocated for irrigation projects this year.
Kerio Valley farmers prefer furrows because of the availability of water while focus is now turning to drip irrigation, which is successful in countries like Israel.
Joshua Chepting, from Marakwet East, who 10 years ago was struggling after he lost all his livestock to armed raiders, says this was no longer a headache “since crops are of no value to the attackers.”
He has adopted modern crop production methods in his five-acre farm where he grows bananas, pawpaws and mangoes.
The Ministry of Agriculture and World Vision have been working to transform the lives of the pastoral communities in the region to invest in crop production.
“My children can now go to school without fee problems since we do not rely on a rain-fed farming following the introduction of furrow irrigation,” said Mr Jackson Kiptoo from Chesongoch.
For years, the residents knew nothing apart from keeping animals as their main economic activity, which explains the difficulty of selling the idea of growing crops.
“The residents viewed cattle as the main source of wealth since they considered their soil unsuitable for any agricultural activity,” says Mr Joel Ruto, a horticulture expert.
He says Marakwets and Pokots have relied on meat and milk and cultivated fewer food crops such as finger millet and sorghum for subsistence.
But irrigation has enabled them to diversify into horticulture, which has improved the income of the pastoral community.
Apart from producing enough food crops, they now sell the surplus in the North Rift, getting income to support their families.
“It was difficult for agricultural experts to sell the idea of initiating such an agricultural activity in this land considered to be less fertile for crop production,” says Mr Jackson Kaino, an agricultural expert.
Residents considered the crop production too tedious, he said. However, the resilience of the government and non-governmental agencies and the return of peace have worked the magic of winning converts, who are now praising the new life.