River Turkwel is one of the few permanent rivers flowing through Turkana County. The river whose source is Mt. Elgon drains into Lake Turkana.
Along the way, gently meandering through the hills and the plains of Turkana County, the river provides life to the animals, communities, farmers, and the entire ecosystem along the river.
The water levels on the river depend on the rain levels experienced at its source and the regions it passes. During rainy seasons, the river swells rendering roads impassable and dwellings inhabitable. Despite this, locals value the river, and conservation efforts are clear. Mature trees along the river indicate a concerted effort to preserve the ecosystem.
River Turkwel’s contribution to agriculture and food security in Turkana County cannot be underestimated. The river supports numerous community farms along its way.
The Katilu irrigation Scheme, one of Kenya’s most prominent irrigation schemes relies on the river. Also in Katilu Ward lies Namakat community farm which feeds on the River Turkwel. Farmers get water from the river to grow maize, vegetables, and other crops.
A little further from Katilu are smaller farms in Loima Sub-County solely relying on the river for water. Natuntun Irrigation Scheme is one such farm.
The farm has an irrigation canal constructed to tap water from the river. A gate is constructed at the intake of the canal to control the amount of water that gets into the farm.
William Elim a farmer at the farm, says without the river they would not have any livelihood. “The river is very important to us in Natuntun. Some of us are pastoralists and others practice mixed farming. All those activities depend on the water from the river.”
Across the river from Natuntun is Natirae Irrigation Scheme, like Natuntun, the farmers and the community there solely rely on the river for water. The 72-acre farm has more than 100 farmers who depend on the water from River Turkwel.
With canals constructed to direct water to the farm, Natirae is productive all year round. Natirae farmers majorly grow sorghum among other subsistence crops and with a good harvest this season, the community looks ahead to a better food-sufficient future.
The Natirae community not only depends on the river for farming, but they also rely on it for water for home use. Lucy Egialam and her sister Mirriam are fetching water from a shallow well just beside the river. –The well provides cleaner water than the flowing water.
Egialam says she comes to the river at least thrice daily to fetch for home use. “Our home is about two kilometers away from the river.
We have no other water source in our village that is why we have to come here three times every day to fetch water.”
Other immensely productive farms along the river in Loima are Napak, Napool and Nadapal irrigation schemes. All the farms receive direct support from PanAfricare’s IMPACT Program funded by Bayer Fund.
The support comes in the form of agricultural inputs, the construction of irrigation canals, the provision of farming tools, and farmer-capacity building.
PanAfricare supports the conservation of the river and its ecosystem through farmers’ training on proper management of the canal structures along the river so as to enhance its sustainability and conserve the riverine ecosystem.
During floods, most of the soil is washed downstream, resulting in the washing away of the canals along the river. It is therefore essential to ensure that the canals are secured through desilting that forms the routine farm management practices at the farms along the canals.
As part of our training, PanAfricare encourages farmers to plant trees along the riverine. In collaboration with Kenya Forest and Research Institute (KEFRI), PanAfricare has distributed over 500 different tree species that will aid in the prevention of soil erosion along the riverine areas and at the farms.
By Dominic Kosgei, Communications Officer.