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Enterprise

Drought, bandits drive growth of new enterprises in Turkana County

Jessicah Iuren
Jessicah Iuren, a member of Abango Naajakon Women Group at Lokori in Lokichar, Turkana County. PHOTO | SAMMY LUTTA 

Banditry is the main source of insecurity for residents of Lokori, 70km from Lokichar town.

This form of insecurity is fuelled by the tradition of rearing large herds of cattle as well as goats and sheep for wealth and prestige. But the livestock has been the main target of armed bandits who steal the livestock and even kill the owners.

Also, during the frequent severe droughts, the livestock get emaciated and some even die living most locals poor and relying on relief food to survive.

Jessicah Iuren says women and children at Lokori and many parts of the entire Turkana East Sub County are the most affected by poverty and hunger due to cattle theft and banditry attacks where they lose their livestock and more unfortunately their breadwinners.

Ms Iuren says residents are usually driven to desperation when bandits strike. During drought, they are compelled to sell their livestock at throwaway prices.

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This had to change and Ms Iuren and a group of women started to seek solutions. Together with 11 women, they formed Abango Naajakon Women Group last year in May to add value to goat meat.

The group boils the meat, dries it before packing in labelled containers in quantities ranging from quarter of a kilo retailing at Sh525, half a kilo for Sh1,125 and a kilo Sh2,250. Their products are labelled Arukot- Product of Turkana.

"Our group is composed of hoteliers, pastoralists, farmers and business women. We use our individual connections to market and sell our products. Our target customers are non-governmental organisation with operations in Turkana East and Turkana South sub counties, schools, and government employees," says Ms Iuren who is in charge of the group's marketing department.

"Our products stay fresh for eight months if preserved well,” says Selina Lotun, a member of the group.

The group also takes advantage of cheap livestock especially during drought to increase their profit margins.

“Livestock is cheap to buy in Lokori due to insecurity and frequent drought," says Ms Lotun.

Abango Naajakon Women Group was among more than 40 local MSMEs that last week converged at Lodwar Vocational Training Center for a business exchange forum to discuss ways to build their linkages for growth.

Ms Lotun says many of those who visited their exhibition stand were amazed at their work.

"Once we get a ready market and financial aid, we can be able to slaughter at least five goats a week and preserve meat of other livestock," she says, noting that they currently slaughter two two goats a week.

Turkana County director of trade James Lokwale says local SMEs, who are mainly in sectors such as extractives, agribusiness, livestock production, fisheries, basketry and handcrafts, are key drivers for economic growth in major towns such as Lodwar and Lokichar.

He challenged small businesses to enter into partnerships to ensure they survive unpredictable market trends.

"Effective marketing is key to increasing business sales, but one doesn't have to break the bank to promote a business,” Mr Lokwale said.

“Partnerships and cross promoting are some reliable inexpensive ways to market products and services."

Hes said financial constraints hurt development and packaging of enterprises’ products and services, limiting their access to markets.

Other noteworthy businesses from Turkana County that participated in the Lodwar Vocational Training Center exhibition were Ngamia Unga, Aredena Honey, Alaireng' Moringa and IDAR Security Services, and Akiberan Aberu Suppliers.

County government was urged to support development of an enabling environment for MSMEs to grow and take advantage of both local and regional markets.

The county’s trade and cooperatives executive Jennipher Nawoi said the devolved unit is focused on ensuring SMES are able to sustain themselves in the competitive business environment.

Lack of finance, she said, “is worsened by lack of collateral such as title deeds for loans as the land here is categorised as communial” and cannot be used as security for credit.

“Poor product branding, lack of market information and challenges in accessing businesses certification limit the growth of enterprises in the county," she said.

The county has established Biashara Fund, Cooperatives and Enterprise Development Fund as well as Youth and Women Empowerment Fund targeted at startups.

The county, Ms Nawoi added is also setting up incubation centres where entrepreneurs will be mentored, trained on relevant business skills and guided on accessing certifications for their businesses either from county or national government agencies.

Partners during the two-day business forum included Unvest in Africa, the International Financial Corporation (IFC), Tullow Oil, Lundin Foundation and TechnoServe who pledged to work with the county to support growth of local entrepreneurs.

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