Reformed bandits in Turkwel, Pokot turn to fish farming

For decades, communities living around Turkwel Dam in West Pokot have not known peace due to incessant cattle raids and banditry leading to loss of lives and property, impacting negatively on the socio-economic development of the semi-arid area.

But the region is experiencing economic transformation after bandits behind the insecurity were wiped and now West Pokot and Turkana residents are now embracing fish farming away from their pastoralist way of life.

Fish farming has offered residents much-needed diversification, especially at a time when prolonged drought has hit livestock farming in the region.

More than 300,000 people in the region depend on fish farming as their source of livelihood.

A reformed warrior Simbolia Lotakara who started fishing two years ago says that he makes shs 800 in a day.

Charles Otiende, a fisherman said the venture has helped him take his three children to school. He cited crocodiles as the major challenge at the dam.

Joseph Siwa, Kostei’s Assistant chief, said crime has been reduced in the area. Siwa said as security agencies they have been having sleepless nights in the fight against cattle rustling but it’s now a new dawn for both communities to now engage in fishing as a meaningful activity.

To encourage the warring communities to diversify from traditional cattle keeping which has been blamed for the recurring skirmishes in the region, the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) has initiated an ambitious plan to replenish the Turkwel dam with fingerlings.

The multimillion project being conducted in phases is primed at giving the locals around the dam to shift from entirely depending on livestock keeping and embrace fish farming for better nutrition and for wealth creation.

Already the agency in collaboration with the University of Eldoret has supplied the dam with fingerlings which when harvested are expected to fetch over Sh 20 million in the next five months.

KVDA MD Sammy Naporos said the project has a three-pronged objective of increasing household incomes for communities living around, and in line with government policy of blue economy they want to mainstream fish farming as an alternative source of livelihood and offer food and nutritional security for the locals.

He said locals have been trained and sensitized on fish rearing and they have gone further to ensure they form beach management units (BMU) to help in regulating and enforcing laws in regard to the dam use.

He added the region, for ages, has been notoriously known for deadly bloodletting which continues to rob hundreds of lives and property as a result of cattle rustling and banditry.

Fish farming is thriving in pastoral areas of the region after farmers started diversification of farming to boost production in the semi-arid region.

Turkwel dam is able to produce close to 500,000 kilograms per year of fish meat equivalent to 0.2 tonnes, which he says their target is to scale up by ensuring that they reach a target of putting in half a million fingerlings.

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