Traditionally the Turkana People are semi-nomadic pastoralist. Due to increasing survival stress, a growing number of Turkana families can no longer sustain the traditional way of life and are “in transition”. Agriculture is becoming a complimentary or an alternative way of life for many who are in transition from traditional pastoralist life.
Following the success of Furrows in the Desert (FID) agricultural development program, nowadays there is agricultural activity in over 50 communities in northern Turkana, Kenya, through FID graduates and their assistants. Our current focus is on the establishment of farming clusters and farming centers within the region of our operation.
The most limiting factor for development in the region is the scarcity of water. While most of the farming activities are based on underground water delivered through boreholes, most of the rainwater is lost along barren, over-grazed, clay-rich slopes into dry river runoff. Over-grazing and land degradation are common problems in Turkana, especially around farming communities.
With the increase of local food production and the growth of agricultural activities within the farming clusters, the resilience of some of the communities also increases, and they are now able to invest their limited resources into managing the environment they live in.
During the last 3 years we developed water harvesting sites around three FID communities in Turkana (Lobur, Kopotea and Kaikor). This initiative is part of a study for the adaptation of appropriate watershed management and runoff water harvesting methods with an aim to: (a) Improve ecosystem services by rehabilitation of the agro-silvopastoral system, (b) Increase the local production of pasture and other animal feed for use of domestic animals, (c) Prevent land degradation through erosion of fertile soils, (d) Improve soil quality by decomposition of organic matter, (e) Increase rainwater residual times to percolate through the soil and re-charge ground water aquifers, (f) Increase food production towards food security and to diversify the types of nutrients available to the local Turkana People, and (g) make a positive contribution to the environmental education and awareness of the local communities through the high visibility of variable and dense plant production especially of trees.
This initiative is based on knowledge and experience developed over the last decades by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), the acting Forest Service of Israel. A combination of research-based management, combined with a pioneering attitude, have helped KKL-JNF rehabilitate vast areas of degraded dryland in southern Israel. The methods developed by KKL-JNF are now adapted to the physical and cultural environment of northern Turkana by Israeli experts, FID staff and the local Turkana People.