, MOYALE, Kenya, Sep 30 – In July 2011, Kenyans from all walks of life joined together in solidarity to raise emergency funds to assist starving and dying Kenyans in the North Eastern part of the country.
This was as a result of a prolonged drought that had left an estimated 3.5 million Kenyans affected, a situation worsened by an influx of immigrants from Somalia also fleeing drought in their country.
This led to a nationwide outcry with the government accused of failing to cushion its people against the effects of drought.
Kenyans came together through the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), Safaricom, Kenya commercial Bank and other partners to raise funds to help the affected, an initiative that raised over Sh677m.
“We are now accounting back to Kenyans who gave us their Sh10, Sh5, Sh100, Sh1m, Sh10m or big companies that gave us that and this is the way to go,” says KRCS Secretary General Abbas Gullet during a tour of Moyale constituency where one of the Kenyans for Kenya long term projects is situated.
Apart from just offering emergency food aid, the funds raised by Kenyans were used to initiate long term livelihood projects in the pastoralist affected communities of Moyale, West Pokot and Turkana with the KRCS as the implementing partner.
In Moyale, the Walda Integrated Food Security and Livelihood project was started. This is a 240 acre farming project.
Already 64 acres of this once dry land has been cleared and is under drip irrigation.
According to Gullet, this will stop firefighting every time there is a drought.
“What we first saw was the emergency response which was well executed by Kenya Red Cross where we delivered the emergency food and water that was a phase that last about two to three months. We then said to Kenyans that we now want to embark on longer term initiative and I think coming here today to Walda has really demonstrated that to Kenyans,” Said Safaricom Head of Corporate Responsibility Sanda Ojiambo.
“This is a fantastic initiative,” she added.
This is the first time that the community here is practicing farming and they are already happy with the results they are seeing.
Inside eight of the greenhouses within the farm the community is growing tomatoes which are already sprouting.
“We now know and believe that farming will help us develop just like other parts of the country,” says one of the locals.
They have also planted cereals, vegetables and fruits all under drip irrigation.
“When we first came we were told that there will be one borehole which will be sufficient with 60 cubic meters of water per hour but when we came to the ground we found that it was 18 and it needed to be rehabilitated so in the process we have now done three other boreholes, rehabilitated the fourth one,” Gullet explains adding that this ensures the community has a permanent source of water for farming.
The irrigation network also includes a 25 by 25 water pan holding 2,400 cubic meters of water from the boreholes boosted by pumps into the farms.
The Walda Integrated Food Security and Livelihood Project cost Sh113m and is expected to provide food for the entire community and have surplus for sale.
Moyale MP Mohamud Ali Mohammed says this is a first in the constituency.
“I am quite overjoyed with this initiative and my thanks go to very many Kenyans who through Kenyans for Kenya initiative made us to be able to enjoy this opportunity. Through this simple initiative this part of Kenya is going to be food secure. This business of giving handouts to citizen’s year in year out must stop,” the MP said.
But it was not easy to convince the community, which is a pastoralist community to embrace farming.
“It took us a bit of time to convince the community and for them to believe because there had been many initiatives that had been brought to this community and many times they have just been white elephant at the end of the day,” Gullet said.
He believes that no Kenyan should be on food aid because with simple technology it is possible to make the country food secure.
This is about development, it takes time but it is doable and we have seen here it can be done and God willing it will be done. As we stand here today at least we can celebrate this,” he concludes.