Boreholes come to the aid of drought-ravaged villagers

A farmer watering her crops at Keekunyuk village in Katilu ward on September 13, 2022 using borehole water irrigation

A farmer watering her crops at Keekunyuk village in Katilu ward on September 13, 2022 after a borehole was successfully drilled and water piped to the farm for irrigation.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Unreliable rainfall in Turkana County due to climate change is pushing conventional water sources like rivers and surface dams to the brink of exhaustion.

The situation has exacerbated the effects of drought, with more than 600,000 residents still relying on relief food, according to authorities.

However, residents of Turkwel and Katilu wards, which are also prone to drought, are adapting to climate change by embracing irrigation with water from boreholes.

Mr James Ekidor, from Katilu village, has carved out a niche for himself through irrigation and no longer relies on relief food.

His farm is an oasis of shiny leafy vegetables on a six-acre portion that is served by a functioning and well-equipped borehole that guarantees him a reliable supply of water.

Year-round water

Mr Ekidor grows highly nutritious vegetables like cowpeas, okra, African nightshade (managu), tomatoes, butternut fruits, watermelon and sukuma wiki (collard greens) by relying on a borehole that he says provides year-round water.

"The livestock that I used to keep were wiped out by drought due to lack of water and pasture. When the borehole was constructed in the area by PanAfricare, the water was not only enough for domestic use but also to support passionate farmers like me," he said.

He noted that he doesn't only ensure that his family has enough food to completely stop relying on relief food, but he is also able to sell the surplus in nearby Katilu at prices dictated by villagers.

Farmers at Keekunyuk village in Katilu Ward, Turkana delighted as they witness the piping installation on their farm

Farmers at Keekunyuk village in Katilu Ward, Turkana county delighted as they witness the piping installation on their farm on September 13, 2022.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Ms Ann Ekiru and her neighbour Susan Nakadi in Kanaodon village, Katilu ward, says the boreholes have enabled them to establish kitchen gardens, which they bank on improving the families' nutritional needs as they plant a variety of vegetables.

"The money that I would have spent on buying vegetables for my family is saved. The area is almost semi-arid and it does not rain most of the time, so the prices of vegetables are high," Ms Nakadi said.

Relieved from relief food reliance

Mr Emase Lokuda, the Napak farm chairman, said he embraced groundnuts farming after PanAfricare rehabilitated both the farm and the borehole.

"The rehabilitation of the farm came at the most opportune time as we could have been among many locals in the county pleading for relief food. But fortunately we are now pleading for a better market for our farm produce," Mr Lokuda said.

Mr Jones Lopeyok, PanAfricare's agriculture field officer, said they resorted to drilling boreholes in areas with agricultural potential in Katilu and Turkwel wards to support farming activities.

"Through Improved Approach to Community-based Nutrition (IMPACT), the organisation that is funded by the Bayer Fund has sunk nine boreholes to serve farmers far away from the permanent Turkwel River,” Mr Lopeyok said. 

“Prolonged drought has affected rain-fed farms, resulting in reduced agricultural activities."

Nutritious vegetables

By investing in boreholes, he said, they are facilitating locals to grow nutritious vegetables to increase household access and the availability and consumption of diversified and nutrient-rich food especially for mothers and young children.

"Irrigation makes farming a great venture because farmers can farm all year round. With proper management of irrigation infrastructure, they will be able to achieve high water use efficiency," he added.

Boreholes, which have also been drilled and equipped in other villages such as Keekunyuk, Lolupe and Nakoyo that have huge agricultural potential, are shown to help farmers earn more cash and they are the right step to self-reliance.

More irrigation infrastructure is being set up on the Kaapus and Tiya farms. This includes boreholes, fences, water storage tanks and piping systems meant to effectively utilise groundwater to reduce farmers' dependence on unreliable rainfall.