Crops bloom in the desert

Thursday January 26 2012


Being an arid area, Wajir is synonymous with recurring droughts.

There is hardly any rain in the region throughout the year and this always results in massive livestock deaths and starvation for the residents.

The food supply in Wajir is in a state of emergency, according to a recent report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

It states for example that the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate is of 27.9 per cent, 15 per cent above the level at which an emergency can be declared.

However, there are groups of farmers who are trying to change all this by proving that farming is possible in Wajir.

On the outskirts of Wajir Town, they are producing maize, beans watermelons, pawpaws, bananas, tomatoes and other vegetables.

“Providing food for my family has been a daily struggle, especially during periods of drought. In 2009 I had 300 goats, but I was left with only 35 when the rest died in the drought so I decided to try my hand at farming,” said Mr Mohamed Osman.

Although, successive failures of the rains in the last three years left most families dependent on relief food, Mr Osman believes that with good irrigation scheme, the Wajir community can feed itself by growing crops.

However no crops were harvested at the beginning of 2011 due to inadequate rainfall.

“Most failed at germination except for a few grown with irrigation in Wajir Town, but I think irrigation can help families here to get their daily food,” Mr Osman said.

For Mr Issa Hudow, who also turned to farming after years of herding, water from boreholes and wells has been a lifeline.

“We use it to water our crops because in Wajir it’s risky to rely on rainfall,” he said.

And he added, “In 2011 many farmers were not lucky; there were no harvests except for those of us who depend on shallow well irrigation to sustain our crops. The kind of irrigation we get here should be encouraged in the whole county so that farmers can provide enough food to feed their families and also to sell in the market.”

The farmers’ efforts have been made possible through a project supported by World Vision that tries to help Wajir people to grow their own crops, through supply of certified seeds and pesticides.

It also offers training in farming and marketing their produce. “During the drought I used to worry because I was not sure what my family will eat. But those fears are now in the past,” said Mr Osman.