Women in Turkana West take lead in fight against hunger

Women in Turkana West take the lead in war on hunger

What you need to know:

  • A borehole project funded by World Bank has come as a blessing and is alleviating the suffering of women in Turkana West.
  • At Nakodapus village in Nanaam Ward, Felisters Lobuin and her family have, for the first time, not migrated 20 kilometres towards the border where armed militia strike at will.

Caught between climate change and chronic insecurity resulting from conflicts over scarce pasture and water along the border of Kenya and South Sudan, women in Turkana West Sub-county have been forced to take lead in livelihood diversification to restore hope and dignity.

At Nakodapus village in Nanaam Ward, Felisters Lobuin and her family have, for the first time, not migrated 20 kilometres towards the border where armed militia from neighbouring Toposa community strike at will, to steal livestock.

"It is a norm that during drought, the entire village migrates towards slopes of Mogilla hills and Songot village once our surface dams and scoop holes dry up due to lack of rainfall. It is always risky as families with unarmed men become easy targets for the militiamen," Ms Lobuin says.

Women left behind are also exposed to climate change aggravated gender-based violence; as they spend their day in the wild looking for fruits and water, becoming easy targets for rapists, she adds.  

A borehole project funded by World Bank through Kenya Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (KDRDIP) has come as a blessing and is alleviating the suffering of such women.

Risk lives

"We now have access to water not just for livestock and domestic use, but enough for us to engage in small-scale farming activities. Our husbands and sons no longer risk their lives to get water for livestock at insecure Songot village or slopes of Mogilla hills," Ms Lobuin explains.

A model farm near the borehole managed by female members of the community project management committee is now an oasis of green. It sprung up in an area that was previously full of dry vegetation, but now boasts of six-foot tall sorghum plantations. The farm also has watermelon, spinach, amaranth and cowpeas that were planted without fertilizer.

As she chases birds from maturing sorghum, Ms Lobuin recalls that the village was always among those categorized as the hardest hit by frequent droughts.

She says they settled on a borehole project as a priority during a public baraza to not only rescue livestock, their main source of livelihood, but to also provide empower women to tackle food insecurity.

Akeno Achu, another resident says since the climate has changed, their lives need to change too, and that is why they are engaging in farming.

"If we neglect, we will remain poor with malnourished children."

"We are now assured of access to nutritious vegetables as opposed to livestock products, grains and wild fruits. We expect the health of our children to improve as we appeal to more women in the village to embrace farming too," Ms Achu says.

Sammy Ikeny, a village administrator says the borehole not only serves the 1,250 households at Nakodapus, but pastoralists from nine other village units that would otherwise have migrated too.

Reliable water supply

"We need more support from KDRDIP to drill boreholes for other villages because overreliance on this one borehole could results into frequent breakdown, reversing the current gains. An additional borehole will encourage more villagers to diversify into crop farming," Mr Ikeny says.

He says permanent settlements with reliable supply of water will ensure all children go to school.

"By practicing farming, the villagers don’t have to keep migrating in search of pasture and food," he explains.

He notes that the women, who are more likely to reinvest their income into their families to improve education, nutrition and health have access to sustainable water supply, more farming land, certified seeds and agriculture extension, need more support because when they flourish, families and communities do too.

During a three-day visit to Turkana West late last year,  KDRDIP team leader Wilfred Omari who accompanied World Bank’s Matthew Stephens, Ragini Dalal and other officials to take stock of progress, said 41 boreholes had been drilled and were operational, through the project.

Mr Omari said they were focused on drilling, equipping, solarisation of the boreholes, as well as establishment of water kiosks, pipelines to nearby public institutions, cattle trough and tower tanks.

"The villages’ decision has not only saved them, but also the surrounding communities. However, we have noticed that there is a challenge in sustaining the projects as the beneficiaries needs to raise money to maintain the systems. We will support them," he said.

(KDRDIP) was launched in 2018 targeting communities hosting refugees in Garissa, Turkana and Wajir counties.

By April this year, Sh3.2 billion will have been spent in Turkana, Sh4 billion in Garissa and Sh2 billion in Wajir counties, with a development objective of improving access to social services, expand economic opportunities, and enhance environmental management for host and displaced households.