• KDF- led security operation in five disturbed counties has hounded out many bandits from hideouts and life slowly returns to normal. Security operation continues.
• Governor wants residents to revive farming that had stalled, switch to growing high-value crops, instead of pastoralism. Bandits won't steal green grams.
Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich is reintroducing farming in Kerio Valley so bandits and cattle rustlers will have nothing to steal.
They have largely been eliminated, but the security operation continues.
The KDF-led operation in five disturbed counties has hounded most bandits from their hideouts and life is slowly returning to normal.
For many years, bandits had ravaged the region, stolen cattle, stalled farming and all development programmes.
Kerio residents can now grow crops, a shift expected to change their pastoralist lifestyle so rustlers have no motive to steal.
Governor Rotich sent agriculture and irrigation officers, led by county executive Edwin Seroney, to distribute seeds in Chesongoch, Endo ward, in Marakwet East.
World Vision is supporting the plan as part of its Integrated Management of Nature in Arid and Semi-arid Areas (Imara) programme. It is aimed at at improving livelihoods through alternative and diversified income-generating activities.
Among the first beneficiaries of the initiative were more than 500 residents who include reformed bandits and women from Endo, Arror and lower Sambirir wards. They received seeds of high value crops, including tomatoes, onions and green grams, for about 1,000 acres.
Governor Rotich, who has been battling perennial banditry, hopes to persuade residents to take up farming again after their activities were disrupted by cattle rustling.
"We have lost many people to bandits, including innocent children and women, but now it’s time to change and embrace peace and development,” Rotich said.
The governor has identified modern agriculture and livestock production to empower communities so they do not rely on traditional livestock keeping, blamed for attracting banditry.
"Banditry in Kerio Valley is purely livestock-related. If we diversify from cattle keeping, we will bring to an end the conflicts in this region,” Rotich said.
Resident Dickson Kimutai, 28, thanked the governor for his efforts to restore livelihoods.
Beneficiary Elizabeth Cherop said she was eager to go back to farming after a 10-year break following a bandit attack at their Chepchoren farm in 2013.
“Things are better...I am going back to my farm," she said.
She said they had been turned to begging for food, yet the area was fertile and could produce adequate food.
She said before the fighting escalated in 2013, the Chepchoren Farmers Cooperative Society, which she joined, had planted green grams that earned more than Sh125,000.
Agricultural specialist Violah Seroney said the department of Agriculture was distributing 16,000 mango seedlings across the Kerio Valley.
Interior CS Kithure Kindiki, who has been visiting the region since the security operation began, has pledged the government would invest heavily in education, infrastructure and agriculture to turn around the lives of residents.
(Edited by V. Graham)