Natuntun Irrigation Scheme in Turkwel, Turkana County is full of life. Some farmers are harvesting maize while others are preparing land for the next planting season. On one end of the farm, some farmers are feeding their animals with maize stalks left after the harvest is done.
The irrigation canal gate that lets in water to the farm from a nearby river is yet to be opened. This is making some farmers anxious that their counterparts who are still harvesting will delay their planting. Natuntun is a farm that formerly relied on rain. With rainfall decreasing over the years, produce and farmers on the farm consequently decreased. With an irrigation canal constructed right through the farm, fortunes changed and seemingly the farmers are on a mission to recover the lost time.
Feeding her goats with maize stalks is Alice Tira. She just harvested maize from the stalks and now uses them to feed her goats. The drought currently experienced in Turkana County has affected both animals and humans. “I lost a number of goats due to lack of pasture. Right now, the situation is better because I can feed my goats from what grows on my farm. The goat’s health has even improved.”
Tira grows sweet potatoes, maize, sorghum, and cowpeas. She says most of what comes out of her one-acre farm is consumed at home. She sells any surplus to buy household goods such as soap and sugar. Tiya says her farm feeds her family and her animals. She says despite the challenge of the fall armyworm affecting her maize, she is glad that the entire crop does not go to waste.
Lowoton Naut’s farm sits next to Tira’s. He is a former full-time pastoralist. Although he continues to keep animals, he says most of his time now is spent on the farm. “I feed my cows right here on the farm usually from what is left after harvesting. I have embraced agriculture because out of this farm I have food, my animals have food; everybody is happy!” Lowoton and Tira are part of 300 farmers in Natuntun Irrigation Scheme.
Most of Kenya’s Northern regions have been experiencing a long dry spell. According to the National Disaster Management Authority, the situation is likely to worsen. Farms such as Natutun have been resilient to the effects of the drought as they can access water from the river.
Water interventions on farms not only provide food to the farmers but also life to the entire ecosystem of a place.