, NAIROBI, Kenya, March 25 – The US government on Friday launched a fund worth Sh848 million that will facilitate socio-economic projects for 17 groups in Turkana over the next five years to increase food security in the region.
United States African Development Foundation (USADF) Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Pierson explained that the residents would benefit from a Sh169 million allocation which would be released on an annual basis until 2015.
He added that the Fund targets marginalised communities in Africa including some in Kenya, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda and even Somalia.
"As an outsider I can\’t go in and say what is best for that community; they determine what their needs are. What we are doing is giving you money to generate income so that if you want a clinic then you can do it on your own," he said.
USADF Regional Representative Timothy Nzioka pointed out that 300,000 residents of Turkana, out of a population of 500,000, relied on relief aid. He argued that such statistics indicated that the future stability of that region was at risk.
He explained that if the trend worsened then armed conflict between communities would also increase because of the decline in natural resources and so would the spread of HIV.
"These are marginalised communities that are vulnerable. When you have situations where people have to rustle cattle then you will find women being raped and the prevalence of the virus in the area will continue rising," he argued.
"It (HIV prevalence) currently stands at 20 percent and that\’s even higher than the national average, six percent," he said.
Mr Nzioka added that climate change had also increased food insecurity in the region and that the government bore the sole responsibility of ensuring its citizens got food.
"The backbone of the economy in Turkana has been livestock but the sector has been adversely affected because of persistent drought. Like last year, there was no rainfall in the region since March. It is only now that the rains are coming," he explained.
He also said that the money would be used to fund projects such as irrigation, farming, fishing and livestock keeping. The residents will be required to organize themselves in groups, depending on their interests, in order to access the funds.
Mr Nzioka said that a majority of those who had already made applications to the Fund were women.
"In every country that we work in, women are the ones who are more involved in cultivation. If you go fishing you find that the men go into the water to fish but it is the women who buy the fish, process and market it," he said.
He added that USADF officials would engage the groups for 30 days to ensure that their projects were viable and sustainable.
"One of the greatest needs is that people cannot perpetually rely on relief and when you have more than 75 percent of the population depending on handouts they cannot even get a balanced diet because they take what they are given and they cannot become self reliant," he noted.
Mr Nzioka added that the officials would also monitor the progress of the projects so as to gauge their success. The communities would also be required to account for the money they received from the Fund.
"This is a grant not a loan but we still expect it to act as a seed which will multiply," he said.
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