New dawn for former rustlers as KVDA’s demonstration plots lures them into farming
It is a new dawn for hundreds of former rustlers turned farmers engaging in farming on desolate lands in the semi-arid pastoral areas.
This is after the Government through the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) employed a new technique of demonstration plots at the Weiwei irrigation scheme in West Pokot County as crops thrive a move that is luring Pastoralists to engage in crop production through irrigation which will unite neighbouring communities in banditry area.
The program is supporting 255 households in the area.
Speaking at Sigor area, KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos hailed the project as a game-changer in the region, noting it is the foundation of peaceful co-existence, food security, increased literacy levels and a vibrant economy.
He said that the demonstration of plots technology will help farmers to learn and apply learned technology they learned.
“We are dealing with maize seed multiplication which is sold to the Kenya Seed Company with parses cropping around the year,” said Naporos.
The MD said that they are now expecting 81 tones of maize seed from the 70-acre lands.
“We are now expecting twenty and twenty-five bags of maize per acre. Irrigation allows prolonged growing of crops around the year than rain-fed irrigation,” he said.
He said the project is helping farmers with capacity building and embracing smart agriculture technology.
“This has changed the lives of residents and brought a huge social economy in terms of wealth creation, living standards and environmental impact in the region. Last year the scheme produced the best maize seed in the country. It has become the food basket in the region producing cereals and pulses,” he said.
He pointed out that the lower part of Kerio has been affected by worms and the invasion of locusts for the last two years.
“The worms seem to be resistant to pesticides but working with KEPHIS and other agents to get yields and do research,” he said.
He said that they will make sure farmers get enough water and supply subsidized fertilizer for farmers to get a bumper harvest.
“We make sure farmers get water after every eight hours. We want to make sure the cost of Unga comes down,” he said.
KVDA Chairman Mark Chesergon said that the authority was supporting irrigation projects in the region.
“We are supporting sustainable crop production and shall do more acreage,” he said.
Joseph Lokomer a reformed warrior turned farmer said that the maize will help them avert hunger.
“The government cannot give you food on a daily basis. We have been relying on relief food for decades and we continue crying of hunger every day. One is given two kilograms for two months which cannot last for even two days,” he said.
Weiwei Irrigation Scheme Chairperson Mark Meut said the program has reduced cattle rustling and banditry activities.
“We want to open up businesses and take children to school. Sigor was a corridor for cattle rustlers. The scheme will help uplift the lives of residents in Tiaty, Kacheliba and Turkwel to reduce cattle rustling. It has helped in the establishment of Sigor town,” he said.
More than forty years ago, the Weiwei area in West Pokot County was a battlefield and hideout for bandits.
The region classified as semi-arid initially relied on relief food due to poor rainfall and crop failure has been relying on relief food because of water shortage leading to crop failure following drought being experienced in the region.
But now the Weiwei Irrigation Scheme has become a low-hanging fruit that transformed the area into a green belt.
The once desolate fields are now lush green, filled with various food crops for subsistence and commercial purposes.
The irrigation scheme has saved thousands of residents from hunger and starvation in an area where residents still depend on the mercy of the rain gods.
The Italian government first funded the project in 1986 and put 175 acres under irrigation before pumping in another Sh435 million grant to expand the project to the current 562 acres directly benefiting 225 households.
From that time up to now, Farmers at the Weiwei Irrigation scheme turned on a new leaf after guns went silent and the scheme has the potential to feed all residents in West Pokot and neighbouring counties if well utilized.
The scheme hosts maize, millet, sorghum, sunflower, green gram, watermelons, paw paws, mangoes and fodder crops. Some of the crops are sold to seed-producing companies like Kenya Seed, Western Seed and East Africa Seed Company.
The scheme is producing more than 80 tonnes of food and seeds annually where farmers are earning Shs 80 -100 million as the income generator for residents to avert hunger in the semi-arid area.
The scheme has helped bring cohesion between communities warring over cattle rustling. Food production and availability is expected to promote the end of cattle theft and banditry.