In-depth: Another Kenya - The humanitarian cost of under-development
KENYA: Where there's cluck, there's brass
Green house farming in semi-arid Isiolo is helping improve the production of food crops
ISIOLO, 18 December 2009 (IRIN) - Pastoralists in parts of the semi-arid eastern region of Isiolo are abandoning their nomadic lifestyles in favour of farming to improve their food security and livelihoods.
Successive droughts in arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya have led to livestock deaths, affected pastoralist nutrition and, in places, led to pastoralist drop-outs.
Hassan Jelle, an Isiolo resident, is a former nomadic pastoralist. "My family never had enough food and four of my children dropped out of school yet we had 26 heads of cattle, which used to provide only 3l of milk.
"I was about to sell all the animals last year  because of the drought and fear of bandits… [to] construct timber [rooms] for rent but Allah presented me with [a] better opportunity," Jelle said.
The father of eight sold his cattle and bought two Ayrshire heifers in June after visiting a farm demonstration on dairy zero grazing in Kilimani village, on the outskirts of Isiolo Town.
"Some family members opposed me [but] I was determined. [Now], every day I sell 25l of milk to hotels in town at 50 shillings [US$0.60] per litre," he said, adding that he had 5l extra for his family and neighbours.
The cash from the sale of the milk was enough to buy food for the family and feed for the cattle, he said, and he no longer feared the cattle rustlers as the bandits preferred hardier local breeds that can travel long distances.
Photo: Noor Ali/IRIN
|Pastoral households are being trained in activities such as poultry keeping to help diversify food and income sources in the face of frequent drought
A one-year pilot programme by a local community organization, Women and Youths against Poverty (WAYAP), is helping households learn about poultry keeping, livestock cross-breeding and fish farming to help diversify food and income sources.
The local community mainly relied on dwindling proceeds from pastoralism and relief food aid in the past.
Six months since the inception of the WAYAP programme, a group of reliable milk suppliers has been created. The production of crops such as onions, maize and sunflowers is also encouraging residents to take up modern farming.
Abdiaziz Bonta, the programme manager, told IRIN that so far the 8ha had yielded some 20MT of tomatoes, 10T of onions as well as maize, beans and sunflower. Crop farming is by drip irrigation from the Isiolo River.
WAYAP's farm and dairy produce is sold to consumers in Isiolo and in neighbouring Samburu District. Some of it is also channelled as relief aid to some 1,650 needy households in the region, making the programme sustainable.
The agency is also liaising with donors to help provide an artificial insemination service to residents at reduced prices, as well as quality seedlings and fertilizer.
According to another Isiolo resident, Hassan Golo, there was a need for skills training in modern farming.
Roads should also be improved to facilitate access to markets, added Abdullahi Golich. Modern farming, he said, would help the local community find an alternative source of food and reduce incessant fighting over livestock.
WAYAP's Bonta said: "We spend a lot of money on relief food [which]... has created a dependency syndrome. More people are [also] losing livestock to drought and banditry... a sustainable solution is required."