It will be a long walk to a cherished peace in troubled Kerio Valley, but, like the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, the vision has earnestly begun with a single step courtesy of two government agencies.
The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) have launched a raft of livelihood projects targeting reformed bandits and traditional circumcisers to curb cattle rustling and female genital mutilation through funding from the European Union.
Last week, over 400 residents of Tiaty Sub-county in Baringo County benefited from a Sh10 million entrepreneurship project that seeks to offer alternative sources of income to eradicate ethnic clashes, radicalisation and violent extremism.
Among the earmarked projects are livestock rearing, urban farming, bee-keeping, and fashion and design. Speaking while handing over assorted equipment and materials to 29 women and youth groups at the African Inland Church grounds in Chemolingot, Baringo County, NCTC Head of Research and Analysis Kenneth Rono said beneficiaries were also trained on how to identify warning signs of radicalisation among youths in the community.
“The training seeks to build resilience against ethnic conflicts, especially in an area that, for a long time, has been troubled by insecurity,” said Mr Rono, who spoke on behalf of NCTC director Rosalind Nyawira.
He said women and the youth are key to social growth.
“Armed with the right skills and information, these two groups will help our security forces in countering radicalisation and violent extremism.”
“Through interactions in the community, women often have access to valuable information that can help in identifying early warning signs of radicalisation and violent extremism among the youth. However, due to the poor relationship and lack of trust between them and the police, the information is usually not shared,” he stated.
Mr Rono regretted that women are often caught between violent acts by extremists and clampdowns by security forces to counter radicalisation and extremism.
“Therefore, there is need to engage women and the youth to ensure the adoption of effective and efficient strategies. If women and the youth are equipped with enough information on how to counter radicalisation into violent extremism and are enabled to start small businesses, radicalism would be eradicated,” he observed.
KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos, whose organisation is implementing the project, said the selected groups offer them alternative ways of earning a living.
“The beneficiaries were taken through a seven-month training on basic entrepreneurship skills. We shall be monitoring the progress of these groups and offer technical support to ensure that their businesses are sustainably managed,” said Mr Naporos. He oversaw the distribution of motorcycles, bee hives, beauty parlour and salon equipment among others.
Mr Naporos, who was flanked by KVDA board chairperson Mark Chesergon, urged residents to take advantage of the opportunities and shun retrogressive cultural practices.
“The Kerio Valley conflict is due to scarcity of resources, which has been fuelled by other factors. We need to offer alternative livelihood sources and encourage a mindset shift,” he said.
Tiaty MP William Kamket lauded the project, saying, it will go a long way in transforming the lives of residents. The lawmaker urged other development partners to support the region he said was lagging behind in development.
“Incidences of cattle rustling will be a thing of the past if the focus is given to the area with the aim of supporting residents move from over-dependence on livestock keeping to other more viable sources of making a living,” said the legislator.