Philip Esokon grew up in a sparsely populated village located in the southern fringes of northern Kenyan county of Turkana where climatic shocks have for decades worsened poverty and hunger at the household level.
The 52-year-old father of six has painful memories of hunger pangs that he endured at a tender age thanks to recurrent droughts that used to decimate crops and livestock in his ancestral village.
Esokon’s passion for farming that has defied age and extreme weather events has nevertheless caught the attention of local government and charity groups that are promoting the adoption of cost-effective irrigation technologies to conquer hunger in his backyard.
He belongs to a growing army of farmers who are slowly converting the vast dry-lands of Turkana County into breadbaskets thanks to climate-smart food production systems that blend furrow irrigation and improved crop husbandry.
“We are now able to have a bumper harvest of cereals, vegetables, fruits and sugarcane since the introduction of furrow irrigation in this region,” Esokon told Xinhua at his farm on Wednesday.
Nowadays, the burden of feeding my children has eased since the crop yield has gone up due to irrigation and availability of drought-tolerant seeds,” he added.
Esonok’s mid-sized farm has become the envy of peers thanks to blossoming kales, legumes, maize and a variety of fruit trees that have formed a green canopy in a place that was previously regarded as a wasteland.
The vivacious farmer said that furrow irrigation combined with regular sensitization on improved crop husbandry, has been a game changer as evidenced by the abundant harvest of key staples like maize, green grams and fresh produce.
“I have been able to harvest enough food for domestic consumption and the surplus has provided me additional income through sale at the nearest market,” said Esonok.
His farm is hived off from a vast community land where the central and local governments have piloted furrow irrigation and other home-grown innovations to combat hunger and malnutrition in the vast Turkana County.
Josphat Nanok, governor of Turkana County said that a strategic partnership with industry and international charities has revitalized investments in climate resilient farming in the semi-arid county that is variously described as the cradle of man.
“We are helping farmers grow drought-tolerant crops and have also rolled out small-scale irrigation projects to address food and nutritional deficiencies affecting households,” Nanok said during the launch of a donor-funded nutritional improvement project.
He said that community-owned irrigation projects have turned around dry-lands that were previously synonymous with acute famine and skirmishes linked to diminishing water and pasture.
Anna Adung, a middle-aged mother of seven whose farm is adjacent to Esonok’s said that furrow irrigation has motivated her to grow traditional staples throughout the seasons.
“There was a time we could not till the land for almost one year due to suppressed rains but not anymore. Our farms are irrigated adequately and have been producing bumper harvests,” said Adung.
Her 20 acres farm has turned around her fortunes thanks to an abundant harvest of green grams, paw paw, vegetables, maize and sugar cane to help meet the nutritional needs of the young children.
“I am now able to earn extra income from the sale of surplus harvest in the nearby towns. Even paying school fees for my younger children has not been the nightmare it used to be,” said Adung.
Her middle-aged peers have rallied behind the call to embrace furrow irrigation by harvesting water from Turkwell River that snakes through the semi-arid northern Kenyan counties.
Elizabeth Edoo, a mother of six in her early 50s said that she is proud to be a farmer now that she is able to harvest enough staples from domestic consumption and sale at the mushrooming neighboring towns.
“The last four years of farming in this community land have made a huge difference in my life,” said Edoo.
“I have gained from furrow irrigation and am now able to produce enough millet, tomatoes, water melons and vegetables to feed my children and sell the surplus to local traders,” she added.
Simon Emase, a 59-year-old father of seven has also joined the rank of small-holder farmers in Turkana County who are relishing bumper harvests since the introduction of furrow irrigation in their locality.
“My children are now assured of a brighter future since I have been able to cater for their basic education through the sale of produce from the farm,” said Emase.
He said that his younger offspring have developed a positive attitude towards farming having witnessed its benefits that include improved nutrition and revenues. Enditem