Editorials

West Pokot farming success provides food for thought

wei wei

Workers at Sigor Wei wei Irrigation Scheme in West Pokot during shelling of seed maize on August 4, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

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Summary

  • Overreliance on pastoralism in the arid and semi-arid parts of the country has been associated with high levels of poverty, dependency on relief food, and perennial ethnic conflicts over water and grazing lands.
  • Residents of West Pokot and other arid counties such as Marsabit and Wajir have been classified among the poorest in Kenya.

That West Pokot, one of Kenya’s drought-prone counties, has started cutting reliance on livestock keeping, throwing pastoralists a new economic lifeline is a good thing.

Overreliance on pastoralism in the arid and semi-arid parts of the country has been associated with high levels of poverty, dependency on relief food, and perennial ethnic conflicts over water and grazing lands.

Residents of West Pokot and other arid counties such as Marsabit and Wajir have been classified among the poorest in Kenya.

Expanding opportunities through crop farming at irrigation schemes along Kerio Valley will hopefully help defuse the ethnic tensions that have persisted for years, reduce malnutrition cases and improve the standards of living. Money in the pockets of the

Projects such as Wei Wei Irrigation Scheme offer hope to farmers looking to reap the gains of agribusiness.

The project, which irrigates 225 hectares of land, allows the more than 600 pastoralist families to invest in subsistence and cash crop farming.

The farmers grow maize seeds and Kenya Seed Company buys it from them at the attractive price of Sh100 per kilo.

But to ensure that crop farming will be a long-term solution in the region, the government must address some of the challenges the new farmers are facing; exorbitant fertiliser prices and shortages of credit.

Concentrate on helping farmers get the basics they need to grow and market more food: fertiliser, credit, and roads. The farmers have already been trained on how to carry out soil analysis tests to determine the type of fertiliser to use.

Therefore, the government can give incentives to investors to set up fertiliser processing companies in northern Kenya. This will lower fertiliser prices.

The lack of agricultural extension officers is another obstacle. And this is not only a challenge for West Pokot farmers. There are so many agriculture graduates without work, yet Kenya lacks adequate extension officials to teach farmers modern technologies.

The little success of farming in West Pokot shows that Kenya can turn the historically neglected areas into breadbaskets where residents can adequately feed their families.