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February 21, 2019

Isiolo residents take up farming to fight hunger pangs

Farmers in a tomato farm.
Farmers in a tomato farm.

For a long time, what residents of Leparua, a remote area of Isiolo county, have known and practised as a source of their livelihood is pastoralism.

But slowly that trend seems to be changing as the residents embrace farming.

When you visit the small village, which is largely inhabited by the Dorobo community, there is an enviable Garden of Eden in the midst of a harsh, dry terrain with scorching sun. It is coloured with plantations of vegetables such as cabbages, kales, onions and tomatoes.

Christine Korosia says she used to keep several goats and cows to earn a living but later embraced farming to supplement her income.

"I came to realise that farming is very important for us especially during the dry season when our animals have little to feed on. In Leparua, we have seen the importance of farming and I do not intend to stop anytime soon,” says Korosia.

"I planted tomatoes in the greenhouse that Caritas Isiolo donated to us and later sold them. I am now preparing to plant onions and hope to get a bumper harvest.”

Her sentiments are echoed by Samwel Aule, who is the area acting chief.

"For many years, the people of Leparua would move from one place to another in search of pasture for their animals. We were largely pastoralists and would eat honey from the forest or feed on wild animals until we resolved to change our lifestyle. Today, awareness has been created about the importance of farming and that is why many of us are now adopting it as a source of livelihood,” says Aule.

“Many have seen and felt the benefits that come with farming hence are able to feed their families well, which is a step in the right direction to restore peace in the area since people keep themselves busy,” he adds.

With the help of Caritas Isiolo, the community has now been equipped with better agricultural techniques and practices which have enabled them to be self-reliant in terms of food.

Eric Rossana, Caritas project officer in charge of food security in Isiolo, says the project was started in Leparua to help ensure that every household is empowered economically by generating enough food for domestic consumption and surplus for sale.

"In many cases, you find that women bear the brunt of looking for food to feed their families. That is why we have began the crucial process of creating awareness and empowering women in this community on various farming skills in order to enhance their capacity to produce enough food for their families,” says Rosanna.

"We kicked off the project with the introduction of vegetables such as cabbages, kales, black night shade (managu), tomatoes and onions, which will go a long way in improving the nutritional status of the entire community. For example, we teach them how to preserve the traditional vegetables such as managu so that they can use it during the dry season. Apart from the nutritional boost, the women will also be taught value addition and agri-business to ensure that the skills they learn are put into use and earn them some income.”

Pauline Naini, a beneficiary, says she has now realised the benefits of farming, thanks to the skills imparted by the organisation.

"Our children cannot lack food. Once I sell the surplus food, I get some income which I can use to educate my children,” says Naini.

The organisation has also put in place kitchen gardens in homes where there is scarcity of water.

Nicholas Kimutai, project officer in charge of community-based energy projects at Caritas Isiolo, says they are also working with various institutions and community groups to provide them with greenhouses and solar water pumping systems.

"The main objective of these projects is to increase access to energy among the rural communities. So far, 14 community groups drawn from the three sub counties of Isiolo, Merti and Garbatulla have benefited from greenhouses combined with solar water pumping systems for ease in irrigation,” says Kimutai."The groups have already had the first harvest of tomatoes with some groups earning up to Sh45,000 from the proceeds.”

He cites outbreak of diseases and a pest (Tuta Absoluta) that leads to low tomato yields as the major challenge facing the groups.

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