GARISSA, Kenya, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Recurring and frequent drought in arid and semi-arid regions of northeast Kenya has forced pastoralists to abandon livestock rearing and engage in irrigation farming.
The Dololomide farm group in Sankuri, Garissa County that consist of 60 members are now engaging in sorghum and cow peas irrigation farming after they lost most of their livestock to drought.
"We decided to try our hands at irrigation farming instead of waiting for handouts from the government. With the support of relevant agencies, we are slowly and surely succeeding," group chairman Hassan Mohamed said on Thursday.
He added that the frequent and severe drought pushed them to engage in farming after they realized it was becoming almost impossible to recover their herd of cattle.
Garissa County National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) coordinator, Abdinoor Dubow, said the sorghum intoxication project is a partnership that involves NDMA, department of agriculture, irrigation and fisheries, and the farming community.
Dubow said the county is classified as food insecure because it receives 280 mm of rain in two seasons combined, which he said cannot support the generation of the preferred maize.
"As one of the lead agencies involved in food security, we put our heads together and agreed that the only way we can engage the farmers was to urge them to venture into farming of sorghum, which is drought tolerant," he added.
He regretted that Garissa County depends on famine relief food throughout the year and noted that the project is a demonstration to the farming community and other stakeholders of the need to move away from relief dependency syndrome to a food secure situation by adopting drought resistance crops like sorghum.
The crop, which is being used at the demonstration center was planted three months ago, is ready for harvesting and sits on one acre plot.
The department of agriculture provides the technical services and logistics, while NDMA coordinates the activities. Sorghum has dual benefits. Apart from human consumption, the crop is also fodder for the livestock.
County director of Agriculture, Jelle Ibrahim, said the program is a "resilience building project."
"The objective of the project is to build the spirit of the farmers and provide market access and capacity to build small holder farmers," he said.
"We want to show the farmers that if they do the right practices then it is possible to increase the productivity of the crop and also income to their households," he said.
Jelle said the crop does well in arid and semi arid areas where water harvesting technology is used. Some other high value crops that are grown in Garissa include bananas, tomatoes, water melon and onions.
The director said that birds, pest and diseases are some of the emerging problems that they have to cope with.
The crop is popular among the Somali community and has read market in Garissa town and the refugee camps.