Here’s how a green revolution is taking shape in West Pokot

A plaintive but distinct welcome awaits visitors to Ms Jane Chepchumba’s home.

 She is the proud owner of 18 goats at her home in Cheptor village, Sigor sub-county, West Pokot County.

 Ms Chepchumba belongs to the Cheptor Mother to Mother Support Group. The group is active in Cheptor Village, Cheptule location, Sigor sub-county.  

She is one of the 314, 213 women living in the county as recorded in the 2019 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) census.

In August 2020, she joined 24 other women in the village in forming an agribusiness collective.

“Together with other members of the group, I took a loan of Ksh15, 000 and bought four goats,” she says. Ms Chepchumba now co-owns 19 goats.

She is almost clearing the loan, and is optimistic of expanding her goat rearing enterprise.

“ACF’s intervention has greatly improved our prospects for living a productive, healthy and happy life,” Jane tells The Scholar Media Africa.

According to the 2019 national census done by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), West Pokot County’s population stands at 621,241.

This represents a population density of 68.09 people per square kilometer.

Out of this population, the data indicates that only 31, 841 or 5.6 percent live in an urban location, while the remaining 589,400 or 94.6 percent live in the rural areas.

The sparsely populated region is vast, with an area of 9,123 square kilometers.

According to Atiko Bernard Atiko, who is a Community Health Extension Worker (CHEW), insecurity due to criminals targeting livestock herds causes displacement of people in the border regions. At other fewer but deadlier times, natural disasters also drive people from their homes.

Some of the group members are clients he used to serve in the neighboring Chesegon, which was abandoned in the wake of a mudslide on April 20, 2021. Over 4,000 people were displaced following the disaster that also killed 9 people.   

“Some of the mothers in the group moved from Chesegon after being displaced by the mudslide,” says Mr Atiko.

He sees the frequent cattle raids that occur in the area as “an activity carried out by criminal elements,” on either side, refusing to attach any tribal label or attribute to it.

“The cattle raids are criminal activities and should be seen as such. It would be beneficial to both communities if such acts were abandoned in favor of other economically rewarding activities like agriculture,” says the health worker.

Out of the ashes of the mudslide and the ever-present threat of recurring livestock-related violence, Ms Naomi Murkechir continues to blaze a trail in Kaipogh village, that is situated on the hilly Pokot-Marakwet border.

Ms Murkechir has gone into onion farming with other group members.

“We took a loan from the ACF and they provided us with seed. They also linked us to agricultural extension officers who trained us on best farming practices,” she says.

Ms Murkerchir, who is a Community Health Volunteer (CHV), says the ACF program has improved the children’s health.

“We have learnt the importance of exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months. To raise healthy children, we must nurture them on 10 recommended food groups,” says the CHV.  

On her part, Ms FranciscaTiamare suggests the education of youth at the border and religious instruction as the solution to perennial conflicts at the border.

“People should learn to believe in God, and live in peace. The young people should be taught technical skills in vocational institutions,” says Ms Tiamare.

She has set up a maize supply business at Kaipogh village, courtesy of a Sh15,000 loan from ACF.

“The interest rate for the loan is 10 percent. I hope to clear it in a few months and also expand the business,” she says.

Sometimes, the area is a flashpoint for violent skirmishes between members of the community and cattle rustlers.

On November 19, 2020, a landslide killed 52 people and caused the loss of an unaccounted number of livestock as well as significant property loss.

The disaster displaced more than 22,000 households in Tamkal, Nyarkulian, Parua, Batei, Muino and Sebit.

On April 20, 2020, the heavy rains that had been pounding the region from the beginning of October finally exacted their terrible toll.

A mudslide began in the hills overlooking Chesegon, and soon covered the small but flourishing urban center that was the nearest border town before one reaches the Marakwet County border. The nearest town is Tot, which lies some 15 km away.

“The destruction caused by the mudslide was enormous. Even the police post was not spared by the fury of the deluge. We lost nine lives, including an expectant woman and two police officers,” says community health volunteer, Solomon Matale.

Despite this setback and the threat of future violence, a group of women in the village have come together to forge a brave new future.

The Kaipogh Mother to Mother Support Group came together in August 2020.

“We were contributing Ksh100 every month to enable members buy household items and meet other minor needs,” says the group member, Ms Jane Benjamin.

In September 2020, the group met with Action Against Hunger (ACF) officials who offered to provide seed, loans, financial skills training and    

“Some of our group members are from the other community, while others are locals. Our siblings and other relatives are also married on the other side,” says Ms Benjamin

Still, the violence rears its ugly head in the normally placid valley, robbing some of the young women of their husbands.

“We have a number of young widows in our beneficiary groups. The violence has had its impact on the family structure in the region,” says Lucas Odhiambo, who is the Action Against Hunger Food Security and Livelihoods assistant.

According to Isaac Loitangiro, the economic empowerment of households will provide an alternative to cattle rustling and the stockpiling of illegal firearms.  

“Most of the young men that get involved in crime are pushed by the pressure to provide for their families. Getting involved in mixed farming is a way to make extra income and stay off crime,” the Cheptor village resident says.

Slowly but surely, the green revolution is taking root in the lives and families of the support groups. According to Mr Odhiambo, the progress is remarkable.

He however notes that the challenge remains sustaining the project momentum once the funding cycle ends. The ACF official is optimistic that the women will be able to push on by themselves.

“We will still be monitoring the program to see how the group beneficiaries run the projects. In addition, there are pending loan payments, which the five beneficiary groups in the region are still making,” says Mr Odhiambo.

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