Pastoralist communities from Isiolo County have started changing lifestyles from herding to modern farming which reduces illiteracy and also improves food security at homesteads.
The Malka Bisanadi Cultural Centre, started by 20 women about 15 years ago has improved the lifestyle of its members and reduced illiteracy in the area.
Speaking to the drought monitoring team that had visited the area midweek, the Cultural Centre Chairlady, Mrs Makay Mamo, said the group was allocated 10 acres by the defunct Isiolo County Council with intent to have members eke a better living from manageable economic activities.
The members introduced hay, pawpaw, oranges and sweet potatoe farming which earned them good money besides enabling their families to have three meals a day.
Ms Mamo said that the group harvested 400 bales of hay which fetched Sh200,000 with each bale going for Sh500 per.
The group leader thanked Caritas Kenya, a development and humanitarian organization of the Catholic Bishops, for giving them support to grow hay and some drought resistant crops which are suitable to cushion the livestock and human from drought which has hit most areas in Garbatulla and Merti Sub-Counties.
She added that development partners like Nawiri and World Food Programme (WFP) had trained the group members in modern farming and home gardening and the area women no longer relied on men to give them money to buy food for the families.
The Chairlady who was loading 400 bales of hay on two lorries for ferrying to Merti and Sericho in Garbatula Sub-County, said no child from group members had dropped out of school adding that weekly merry-go-round was sufficient to take their children back to school without much struggles.
Mrs Mamo who was accompanied by group treasurer, Asha Ali, added that her members had adapted to the new farming activities and grew drought resistant crops by using fuel driven generators to pump water from feeder furrows to irrigate their farms.
The group was set to give loans to its members so that they could start businesses like buying and selling of animals to the neighbouring Meru County instead of grazing them for a long period and sometimes they later perished owing to persistent drought in the area.
The WFP Isiolo Team Coordinator, Mr Gilbert Mwambulu, said that his organization had provided the group with a fish pond which was doing well and would soon earn them more income.
Mwambulu said that orange and sweet potatoes are nutritious and could also fetch good money at the local market.
He said the group has introduced various other activities by adding men who irrigate farms at night and also chase away the wild animals. Although the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has fenced off a large area with an electric fence, still, there were stray animals like monkeys.
The group members said they were looking for the outlet of their crops which could give them better prices besides selling their produce to local residents as well.
By Abduba Mamo