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Fodder farming providing lifeline to drought hit areas

Over the years, the North Eastern region has faced severe drought, floods and resource-based conflicts due to inadequate pasture and water for the nomadic communities.

Thousands of livestock in this region die every year due to lack of water and pasture, which in some instances has caused border conflicts among pastoralists as they fight for the meagre resources available for their livestock.

Communities in this region mostly depend on livestock farming and when their animals die due to hunger, they are deprived of their only source of income and livelihood, impoverishing them.

It is this reason that forced a group of 55 young pastoralists in Kamuthe area, Garissa County to form a Sacco dubbed Fafi farmers’ cooperative (Fafco) and started fodder farming in a six-acre land through irrigation at the banks of River Tana.

For a fast timer in the farm that is located 50 kilometers from Garissa town, you might be mistaken to think that the area is not experiencing drought like other parts of the region.

Hassan Mohamud, Secretary General of the cooperative said that they started as an association before transforming into a cooperative through the help of USAID.

“We decided to venture into the business in 2018 after we lost hundreds of animals through drought. The situation was so bad that we did not have pasture for our livestock,” Mohamud narrates.

Hussein Ali, one of the founders of the initiative said that they started the farm with ten people before roping in more members, adding that “We decided to diversify and do inter-cropping crops such as bananas, pawpaw and water melons. We later used the proceeds from these crops to buy a few cows because we had lost all our livestock to the drought.”

He said even though the fodder has not gotten to the level where they can sell to other farmers, it is enough to feed their animals.

“We want to increase the current six acres to 75 so that we can start supplying to other parts of the county and the region. This is one business that has high returns,” he said.

Another member of this cooperative Saadia Mohamud Abdullahi urged the government to support more farmers engaging in such initiatives in order to come up with a permanent solution to mitigate the effects of drought which deprive the people in the region of their livestock.

According to the mother of six, losing animals has been a thing of the past in the last four years since they have enough fodder to feed their animals and enough milk for both domestic and sale.

“We want to appeal to the government to come to our aid and fully support this noble venture. We need more seedlings, generators to pump more water, and insecticides to spray the fodder when under attack,” she said.

On the other hand, Hussein Ibrahim said that the perennial drought is what drove them into fodder farming and urged extension officers to organize farmers training regularly to equip them with the required knowledge for effective farming.

“As a community we are pastoralists and that is what we have known for a long time. Farming is a new thing to us hence the need for technical capacity building from experts who are well conversant in this field,” Ibrahim urged.

He also called for the construction of more canals that will help in directing the water to the farms saying a lot of water goes into waste especially during the rainy season.

On his part, Mukhtar Dahir from the livestock marketing system-a USAID funded programme said their main objective was to support the pastoral community in terms of providing them with cheap fodder so that they don’t lose their livestock during drought season.

“We supported them with capacity building and management training, helped transform them into a cooperative since they were at first an association,” Dahir said.

“As you are aware, drought has become so ravaging in this part of the country after 4 consecutive seasons of failed rains. All we are trying to do is to bridge that big gap of 2 million bales,” he added.

He said their main objective is to help the farmers do 75 acres something that will put them into the league of large scale fodder production.

Dahir described the project as a game changer which has ended up creating community resilience in the face of the drought added: “The fodder that comes to this region from other parts of the country is quite expensive. “If we invest in local fodder farming here, we would be able to offer cheaper fodder to our farmers.”

However, the fodder farming in the area comes with its challenges. The team has to employ a guard to watch over the farm throughout to keep away thieves or people who would want to graze in their farm.

By Erick Kyalo

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