New livelihood opportunities for pastoralists in Kenya

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by Abshir Mohamed

Sulieman Aden lives in Wathajir in Garissa County, Kenya. Ravaged by recurrent drought, Garissa is among the poorest counties in Kenya, with most of the population living below the poverty line. The dry conditions increase competition between pastoralists whose household food security relies on their livestock and thus access to healthy pasture. This makes pastoralism an increasingly unsustainable livelihood option, leaving many households in Garissa without access to a daily meal, let alone a balanced diet.

In August 2012, Adeso started implementing the Community Agriculture Recovery and Economic Support (CARES) project in Garissa and Wajir counties with support from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The project covers two key areas – agriculture and food security and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) – and aims to promote community self-sufficiency and disaster risk reduction through promotion of alternative livelihoods. The project targets 4200 individuals (600 households) for agricultural activities such as training on farming techniques, and 84,000 individuals (12,000 households) for WASH activities including the construction of sub-surface dams and shallow wells.

Communities selected the individuals who would receive trainings on alternative livelihoods (including farming), leading to the formation of livelihood groups. Sulieman is a member of just one of these groups. He is enthusiastic about the project, and believes that “farming is a self-sustainable activity that can supplement pastoralism in our region.” Together with Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Adeso has facilitated land preparation and crop production trainings for six livelihood groups so far. The participants received training in theoretical and practical aspects of modern farming practices, covering land preparation, planting and establishment of common horticulture and fodder chops.

With a positive attitude, Sulieman has committed himself to earning a living through farming while using his knowledge and skills to support other community members. Armed with self-confidence and determination, Sulieman now shows a keen interest in both commercial and subsistence farming. “It was through the CARES project that I realized farming is a viable option along the riverine in our region. I have heard of many community members who started from nowhere but through their hard work and support from NGOs they are now successful farmers”, Sulieman reports. The provision of essential farm tools and basic knowledge has enabled him to produce enough food for his family while reducing reliance on food relief.