The 10,000 acres irrigation project, Galana/Kulalu in Kilifi and Tana River counties has been able to harvest 62,000 bags of maize which will be used to feed 200,000 people affected by famine in the area.

Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said the project had a fresh harvest of 10,000 bags which will also be used for the same purpose.

According to the government, by the year 2013, 2.5 million people in Kenya used to be fed with relief food every month but today there were only some 1.5 people facing hunger in Kenya.

Questions

Even as efforts continue to feed famine victims in drought stricken areas we should begin to ask ourselves questions. How much effort are we putting to cattle farming? Water opportunities are we creating for cattle farmers to support themselves through drought periods without the indignity of relief food? Without psychological damage of watching their children starving or even dying?

The resources are there within the environment, within the country.

Only last year, news went round of the discovery of large quantities of underground water in Turkana, one of the areas affected by drought. There was talk of drilling boreholes for irrigation and drinking water and pictures were shown of the work going on. But like in many other useful projects, nothing more has been heard about underground water in Turkana.

Clear policies should start with recognition that most communities in Kenya are cattle keepers. So far, focus has been put on crop farming to the extent that markets for cattle are non-existent. Farmers wanting to sell their cattle have to travel to Nairobi to get buyers. That is a sad situation. There should be large, well established, well known cattle markets within walking distances of farmers. The markets would also offer chances for dealers to make frequent trips for bulk purchases. This is what is happening in fruit farming, and it is working perfectly well.

Cattle feeds

Similarly, there should be cattle feeds available for sale within reach of the farmers. Zero grazing is a successful method of farming. Farmers would gladly sell some of their cattle to buy feeds for fewer numbers when drought strikes.

Distribution of food – and goods in general – within the country should be improved. Food from the Rift Valley – where farmers do not know what to do with it- should be able to reach residents of drought stricken areas as a matter of course. They have cattle which they can exchange for food without the humiliation of food assistance. Such a distribution network will be possible with improved security and establishment of markets.

Water harvesting and preservation

Finally, there should be an improvement in water harvesting and preservation. When it rains, Kenyans all over the country are drowned in raging rivers as huge quantities of water flowing to waste. This is water that could be harvested to be used in dry seasons. More investment should be spent on education to the farmers and on installation of water preservation systems.

 There should also be increased drilling of boreholes. Why are we not exploiting this potential Turkana? In Carissa we are told that water level is so high, it’s difficult to dig toilets. Why aren’t we having more boreholes there?

Boreholes dug by the colonial farmers could irrigate large areas of their huge tracks of land – and the boreholes never dried even up to date. A good bore hole, we are told can supply water for all time to large towns like Nakuru, why are we not using these. Why are we spending huge sums of money interfering with surface waters and creating environmental degradation which eventually will dry up water sources?

The Galana/Kulalu irrigation project is a good example of what irrigation can do. It would even have been better if it is depended on harvested water or underground rivers and lakes, constantly fed with water from well protected forests and large surface areas.