As a visitor in Turkana District I was out to get pastoral experience in pursuit of a priesthood vocation in Lokitaung Mission and I volunteered to work in the garden. Then came the idea of making a difference and making Lokitaung a better place than I found it. At first it was difficult to adjust to the place due to the harsh climatic conditions.
A glimpse of the place depicts a region almost forgotten by the government and the only consolation they have comes from the Catholic Church and some NGOs like Oxfam. While in the garden, I had to decide on which type of crops and plants to try out. The whole exercise was tedious starting from the preparation to harvest because of the topography.
The whole operation started by breaking the rocky ground, identifying a place with sub and top soil and transporting it to the location. This was followed by preparation of the farm yard manure, before finally mixing the three substances. The field was then ready for planting. We used animals as well as tractors as means of transportation.
We had enough water fetched from a wind driven borehole, which was the main source. I used the cheapest method and tried planting the following plants: brinjals, spinach, kales, melons, pumpkins, sweet pepper, vines, bananas, coconuts, cowpeas, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, neem trees. The results were very encouraging as was a success story. The vegetables took half the normal duration, for instance spinach took less than 45 days from nursery to the first harvest. The quality of the produce was very good as compared to the ones I have come across in most places. This made me wonder why hunger should be a big problem in Turkana.
Even though a good idea yields a better one it comes with a little price to be paid. For this experience to yield fruits or make any impact the issue of security has to be checked or addressed; cattle rustling being a major problem and many people having lost their lives.
Cattle rustling is a major setback because without the animals we cannot have manure and when many lives are lost we cannot have enough labor. Consequently, there is a potential multi-million shilling business in exporting livestock as revealed by pastoralists from North Eastern Province who exported camel and goats early this year. The spirit of rearing livestock can be killed because of the fear of losing them. Fish industry can also grow as fish from Lake Turkana can be exported if given proper attention whereas fish farming can also be encouraged. All these can improve the living standards of these people.
This menace of cattle rustling can be checked only if change of attitude takes the center stage in the lives of those who have taken it as a business, a way of life and a hobby. This is because peace resides in the heart of men and erroneous conscience can be corrected. Disarmament too can help solve the problem as well as enactment of strict laws for offenders and having a heavy security presence in the affected areas. It can now be revealed that cattle raiding has also been commercialized and the master minders are well known prominent people in major towns and cities who sponsor raids to get stock for their businesses. They also work around the clock but behind the scenes to block any peace initiative and strategies of eliminating this vice.
Infrastructure is yet another major setback. The poor roads and telecommunication system make a lot of people shy away from the region. With bad roads the produce cannot be taken to the market in good time. This therefore calls for improvement of the already existing infrastructure and creation of more.
As a matter of fact, nothing is impossible, thus reclaiming semi-arid and arid lands can be done especially in Turkana district. This development left me torn in between giving relief food and making the locals self-reliant. What is better giving someone fish or teaching him how to fish? Every year a lot of money is used in ferrying and buying relief food. The amount of money spent can be used in making these people self–reliant, this calls for the people of goodwill to come up and support Agricultural projects in Turkana and in turn help in alleviating poverty. Sooner or later we will be talking of setting wine industries and various canning industries as well as changing the face of Turkana from rags to riches from a ‘disaster zone’ as classified to a productive one.
By Samuel Otieno
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