Some livestock farmers from Tana River County are slowly embracing irrigation farming following years of perennial drought and livestock diseases associated with climate change.
Speaking to the countrynews agency during a field visit, the farmers said they have not completely abandoned livestock rearing but they are now putting more efforts on agriculture.
The farmers are supported by Arid Lands Development Focus (ALDEF), an NGO based in Tana River County. They assist the farmers by supplying them with farm inputs among them seeds and other materials.
Abdirashid Ahmed Gure says he was forced to start a farm following recurrent drought that has most of the time killed his livestock as a result of depleted pasture and water.
“I only have a few remaining cattle after the rest died from recurring drought. The remaining few that give us milk for the families feed on one section of the farm,” said the owner of Mata Gala farm.
“This is a gradual shift. The losses we have incurred due to perennial drought coupled with emerging diseases associated with climate change are unbearable and that is why we have opted for irrigation farming,” he added.
According to him, with farming one can provide for his or her family, pay fees for schoolchildren compared to emaciated livestock that cannot sell during drought season.
Arid Land Development Focus has been implementing pilot projects aimed at jumpstarting farms by helping them with tools and other technical assistance.
Mohamud Ali, the organization’s program officer said majority of the farmers are pastoralists who ‘abandoned’ livestock rearing and joined farming.
He said the farmers have in the past joined hands to achieve a lot without much support noting ALDEF was empowering them in its bid to have a self-sufficient community.
The organization has already disbursed Sh 38,400 to about 25 farms, which the program officer said is meant for farmers to buy seeds as well as fuel their irrigating pumps engines.
“The support we are extending to the farmers is not enough. They need much more support from either government or other humanitarian actors,” he said.
Haret Abdi, Chairman of Gelmat farms appreciated the effort put in by ALDEF and urged both the national and county governments to join in the venture to bolster irrigation farming.
Crops grown on the farms include watermelon, maize, beans and tomatoes amongst others. “We are hoping to expand these farms and also supply foods to other markets,” he added.