Climate Smart, Community Secured: USADF supporting alternative livelihood programs to pastoralists in Turkana County, Kenya

Photo: Achukule members weeding their crops in Lokichar, Turkana county Kenya in February 2016

Photo: Achukule members weeding their crops in Lokichar, Turkana county Kenya in February 2016

Happy Earth Day!

In celebration of Earth Day and hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers USADF supports across Africa, we highlight the Achukule Group who are using climate smart techniques in Kenya’s Lake Turkana region.

Photo: Achukule members harvesting and preparing their produce for sale in Lokichar, Turkana county Kenya in February 2016.

Photo: Achukule members harvesting and preparing their produce for sale in Lokichar, Turkana county Kenya in February 2016.

The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) is on the frontier of development - working with the most vulnerable communities in Africa. One of these communities is Turkana County, Kenya, the second largest and poorest county in Kenya. As a community of pastoralists, they are often nomadic and known to walk hundreds of miles in search of pastures for their livestock. Generally, Turkana’s residents have a meat-rich diet due to scarce access to vegetables, and recurring droughts resulting in the community’s dependence on food aid to survive.

Shipping basic fruits and vegetables into Turkana results in exponential price increases, often two to three times more expensive. Trucked produce into the marketplace on dilapidated roads make what should be a short trip from a neighboring county take over 8 hours. Additionally, roads are extremely hazardous, and serve as targets for demonstrations, cattle raids and roadside robberies.

USADF’s partner, the Achukule Group, is a cooperative group of farmers who have joined forces to build the community’s access to fruit and vegetable production. Due to frequent drought, Achukule exercised climate-smart agricultural techniques, like boreholes in order to get a reliable water supply for vegetable production using a drip irrigation system and increase the area under cultivation. Borehole water is pumped from a raised water reservoir where water is forced into the drip lines that nourish the crops. Additionally, the Achukule have eliminated their need for diesel energy by applying solar energy to pump the water out of the borehole up into the tank.

This will empower a cultural community change for nomadic pastoralists to embrace a settled lifestyle, resulting in an increase the number of children enrolled and retained in school, increased literacy rates, and a reduced rate of early marriages, especially for girls.
Photo: Achukule members drawing water from their borehole in Lokichar, Turkana County, Kenya in February 2016

Photo: Achukule members drawing water from their borehole in Lokichar, Turkana County, Kenya in February 2016

Using small parcels of land, Achukule Group members grow vegetables like tomatoes, kale,  bell peppers, and eggplants, which take a short time to reach maturity, provide much needed balance to the local diet, and return a significantly higher market price than cereals. From their harvest 20% is consumed and the rest is sold.  From their sale of vegetables, members get an average sales of 400,000 Kenyan shillings monthly ($4,000 US dollars) out of which half of the sales is shared equally to its 52 members; the other half of the profits are reinvesting into the purchase of inputs like seeds, pesticides and paying a security guard. Members use their profits to buy other food stuffs they do not produce, pay school fees for their children and meet their needs.

Cultural Shifts for Community Good:

Achukule now serves as a model to other groups in Turkana County to embrace crop production and climate smart diversification. The Government of Kenya highlights the Achukule farmers as models, and brings other farming and NGO groups to view their agricultural methods and business model. As a result of Achukule’s success, the Kenyan government has seen that crop production is possible in Turkana and intends to support more groups to practice agriculture.  This will empower a cultural community change for nomadic pastoralists to embrace a settled lifestyle, resulting in an increase the number of children enrolled and retained in school, increased literacy rates, and a reduced rate of early marriages, especially for girls.