, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 9 – With their index fingers on the trigger of their rifles, they pace up and down a perimeter they have created as their women till the land.
It is the only way these men from Kainuk area in Turkana can protect their community.
They have to guard women who are working in a nearby farm due to the high insecurity in the area which lies in the border between the Pokot and Turkana communities.
“We are about 30 of us. Today it is us, tomorrow there will be others,” says James Anjala one of the security men who adds that in a month they can be attacked up to 15 times.
This is an area where the rule of the jungle plays with a long standing hostility between the Pokot and Turkana communities which has affected food production in the area.
“We just use the gun… there is nothing else. If someone dies too bad because they were also looking for us,” Anjala says.
The security team has to be at the farm hours before to ensure that it is safe for those coming to till the land. They position themselves at all entries where their attackers can access.
“The main issue is that they want to take our land and expand theirs as well as steal our livestock leaving us with nothing,” Anjala explains.
The main problem in the area, according to locals, is the fight over the border with both communities claiming to own the land.
In 2001, about 210 locals from Kainuk got together and participated in clearing bushes for farming. They planted their first crop in 2004 but had no harvest because of poor rains.
“Since we started clearing this farm, we have had a lot of challenges from our neighbours (the) Pokot who have been attacking us. Some eight people were killed here in 2002 as they cleared the farm,” explains Lokiro Meigol a local.
He says this created tension and working on the farm had to be put off for a while. In 2007, through the assistance of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, they resumed but again had no yield because of drought.
“This place still requires some ploughing; we need to bring tractors here so that they can break the soil and find a way of accessing water from the river to these farms because water is the major challenge other than insecurity,” NCCK North Rift Coordinator Raphael Lokool says.
Some of the locals like Ruth Ayienai who is growing vegetables have now resulted to carrying water using jerricans from the Turkwel River (known locally as Marmarte) to grow their crops.
The NCCK North Rift Coordinator says although the conflict has not completely come to an end, it has reduced significantly – with the number of raids coming down – through some peace programs.
“This is the food basket for both the Turkana and Pokot. It’s only that it has not been exploited to its full potential because of insecurity. There are always gunshots; people are always killed when they are on the farms,” he says.
He adds that not every place in Turkana and Pokot can rely on food aid because some of the land is agriculturally potential.
The two main issues the locals now want addressed are insecurity and access to water.