New dawn for Pokot warriors as they turn to agriculture

Reformed warriors in the semi-arid areas of West Pokot County have joined rural farmers in starting agricultural cooperatives through sharing and pooling of resources.

The new drive is aimed at improving access to markets, higher returns for their products, strengthened bargaining position for food security and strong economic benefits.

Being a pastoralist region’, the food security situation has been under threat owing to recurrent drought resulting from climate change.

However, through the support of the “Ustamimilivu” consortium project with funds from the European Union, farmers in Pokot Central Sub County have launched Muino Valley Cooperative for rural farmers.

The pastoralists turned farmers have joined cooperatives as a means to facilitate engaging in food processing, thereby allowing them to access and benefit from higher value-added markets.

Through cooperatives farmers have attained food self-sufficiency because they are playing a crucial role in attaining food security through the provision of agriculture input and output marketing, facilitating irrigation for crop production, value addition, and creation of employment, the establishment of small and micro enterprises.

A farmer,Mary Nabwonya, of Muino Valley Cooperative said that they have been trained on new farming techniques under the Ustahimilivu project.

“We shall make sure that every registered member plants mangoes and bananas in large numbers. We need young people to get involved because they still have energy to take forward the cooperative. We want youth shun vices like banditry and cattle rustling. We need to sell our yields through our cooperative,” she said.

She said the cooperative will improve member livelihoods and local re-investments, support rural development and the viability of rural communities.

“The low production of the agricultural sector has led to frequent food insecurity problems in the region. So as to solve the problem, we have come up with agricultural cooperatives, as part and parcel of the agricultural sector,” she said.

Bernadine Mutinda, Country Manager for E4Impact Organization under Ustahimilivu Projects said cooperatives will help farmers get farm inputs like fertilizer and seeds at subsidized rates and sale their products together at fair prices

“We want to bring farmers together for their voices to be heard,” he said.

She said that intensive awareness enhancement initiatives should be done in rural areas so that more people become members of agricultural cooperatives and ensure their sustainable food security, and contribute their parts in the development endeavor of the region.

“Cooperatives will address the social protection needs of their members, thereby reducing farmers’ vulnerability, particularly in times of crisis, and prevent them from falling into poverty,” she said.

She said that there have been market gaps for farmers in the region but E4Impact has plugged them into to build sustainable business models, increase market linkages and financial injection to boost the growth of local farmers.

Allois Naitira from Northern Rangelands Trust [NRT] said the project also supports increased drought and climate change resilience in West Pokot County.

“With the objective of training farmers to support the start-up and growth of their businesses, EU funded Ustahimilivu program, NRT, E4Impact is giving support in Enterprise and Value Chain Development,” he said.

He pointed out that agricultural cooperatives will help rural people to solve common farm problems and broaden their livelihood options to ensure food security.

“This has enabled farmers to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a joint-owned and democratically controlled enterprise,” he said.

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