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Turkana county – drought and hunger

The Turkana County, like many parts of northern Kenya, has often been characterized by perennial drought and hunger, year in year out. Early this year 400,000 families were facing starvation in the area and several deaths as a result of starvation were reported. Like most communities in northern Kenya, Turkana’s are pastoralists, a way of life and form of economy that is badly affected by climate change; it’s always a disaster when it’s too hot, or when it rains heavily.

In August the Kenya Forum posted an article under the headline, ‘Kenyan for Kenyans now, but long term programmes are the solution to food security’. In it we castigated ‘the government’s failure and lack of political will to enhance agriculture in arid and semi-arid areas in order to provide long-term solutions to curb the food crisis in northern Kenya’.


PM Raila Odinga and Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu

It was therefore good news for residents of Turkana (most of whom are probably yet to receive it), when Prime Minister Raila Odinga sealed a deal on Tuesday last week with Israel’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Labour, Shalom Shimhon, that will see over 10,000 hectares of land in Turkana put under irrigation. The deal was sealed in Tel Aviv at a meeting following the opening of the Sixth International Exhibition and the Third International Conference on Water Technologies, Renewable Energy and Environmental Control.

As reported by The Star, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is expected in Kenya in January next year to launch what will become Kenya’s largest irrigation scheme. The project in the Todonyang area of Turkana is set to be the first large-scale beneficiary of Israeli technology and expertise after the Israel agreed to fund it and provide technical support.

PM Odinga said the government is determined to introduce irrigated agriculture (what took them so long?) among pastoral communities in northern Kenya as a way of weaning them from pastoralism.


Morulem Irrigation Scheme – feeds 3,000 families

Irrigation projects that had been earlier introduced in some parts of Turkana had proved beyond doubts, that irrigation could save the northern communities from starvation in future.

The Morulem Irrigation Scheme (MIS) for instance has changed the face of Turkana. The gravity-fed irrigation sits on 1,500 acres of land and uses water from Kerio River situated about 10km away. Spanning over three decades MIS currently feeds 3,000 families.

Finally, the government seems to have realized that aflotoxin contaminated relief food will only help to wipe out the populations in the semi arid parts of the country (see Forum posting, 4 November, ‘Kenya’s toxic gift to the starving’) but that long-term irrigation and agricultural solutions will feed future generations to come.


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