At the extreme end of the extensive Katilu Irrigation Scheme in Turkana South lies a blossoming farm. A group of young men are busy working on the farm. It has tomatoes that are being harvested and loaded to a motorbike ready for the market, the butternuts are also ready for harvest. The farm has assorted vegetables; spinach, pawpaws, cowpeas, and kales. Along the edges of the farm, there are fully grown bananas on one side and sugarcane on the other.
This is Israel Farm established in 2013 by a group of 15 young men who felt the need to venture into agriculture to earn a living. Michael Esekon is one of the founding members, “Fifteen of us came together in 2013 to establish the farm. Five more came later making it a farm of 20 members.” He adds that the journey of transforming the piece of land into a functional farm needed conviction and hard work.
Ernest Lomuria; a farmer on the farm recounts why they began the farm. “We decided to venture into agriculture to be financially independent. We used to borrow money like most young people in the village. I am grateful that after a lot of work our plans worked out.” On his section of the 35-acre farm, Ernest has bananas and butternuts that he sells in the nearby market. “I sell most of my produce in Katilu Market although sometimes buyers come to the farm to source produce by themselves.”
He recounts how his life and those of other farmers have changed since he ventured into farming. “Despite the challenges that we face, our lives have changed for the better. Many of us have married and continue to support their families through this farm. I have developed a lot at a personal level from the proceeds of this farm.”
Solomon Epuk grows maize oh his section of the farm. He has is one of the members who joined the group later after it was formed. He is married and has two children. The 29-year old says he joined the farm after he saw it was a worthwhile venture. “I saw my friends starting to sell tomatoes and had food throughout the year. I requested to join the group and since they were my close friends, I was gladly accepted. I was assigned a section and since then I have not looked back.” Solomon says the farm enables him to provide for his young family including buying school uniforms for his first-born son who just began school.
Despite the successes, the farmers face challenges that affect their productivity. “The fall armyworm really affects our crops especially maize. The market is also a challenge because the local markets do not give the best bargain.” Ernest said.
The IMPACT Program actively supports such farms through training, extension services, farm inputs such as seeds, and the building of irrigation infrastructure. The Program is working to provide market linkages so that farms such as Israel can access better markets for their produce.