By Mohammed Wako Kosi – Isiolo.
No one expects to find a fresh produce stocked market in Isiolo County; here, people struggle with harsh dry climatic conditions and less rainfall. With recurring famine and drought , life is eked through thick and thin for this community.However, despite these challenges, a village in Kinna boasts of plenty of food supply around the year.At Kinna market, fresh vegetables , fruits and other farm produce litter the market, men and women are shouting on top of their voices to convince incoming customers about their good and affordable prices.All is clearly written on their faces ; life is good !
Unlike other markets which depend on food from other towns, Kinna market is believed to sustain its people even in the harsh weather climate conditions known to be a havoc to the people of Isiolo County.
Located in South of Isiolo County,Kinna is a market center , densely populated and mainly inhabited by the pastoralists community of Borana. It boasts as the largest center of subsistence farming in Isiolo South constituency dating back when its foundation stone was laid by the late Haji Wako Wario. Farming has taken root here, all crops do well, farmers plant and harvest maize, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, kales, cabbages, onions, carrots, mangoes, paw paws and bananas .
“We depend on our farms for most of our food security needs, we produce maize, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, kales, cabbages, onions, carrots, mangoes, pawpaw, bananas among others.we only go to shops at the market for tea leaves, sugar, spices, and salt .” Says Mr. Jaldesa Boru a farmer in kinna .
These has been enabled by vital forests found on the foot of Nyambene hills that have continued to water the farms, the once permanent water streams and springs that were the lifeline of the community. The natural springs that run and in Kinna and its environs are Bisanadi, and Chaffessa . The forests which used to act as home to wildlife and various endangered species of indigenous trees are being threatened.
These area which happened to be the border line of Isiolo County and Meru County was a battle ground last year, a conflict which ostensibly for some, was sparked off by the killing of one young man who was said to be a conservationist for some, but to others it was a commercial charcoal burning curtail at its war, whatever the case the environment has suffered, other threats ranging from extensive clearing of forest cover to pave way for irrigation farming activities and unregulated felling of trees for timber and timber products.
Indigenous pastoral people are eek a tough life due to natural resource degradation and climate change impacts. Communal responsibility eroded long time ago , cultural values attached to biodiversity resources is diminishing too. The situation is further aggravated by change in economic lifestyle and continued decay of traditional institutions that govern resource use and management.
Kinna is endowed with various natural resources with potential for development and sustenance of pastoral livelihoods besides pastoralism. However pastoralism is yet to be viewed as a way of sustainable livelihood, due to unfavorable policies that has disempowered and delinked the community from decisions that concern their land usage and the resource therein.
Like every growing center ,Kinna has its fair share of jobless youths, who have got basic education and on the alleys, unable to join college due to poverty that run deep because most of this pastoralists claim to have lost livestock to drought, while others blame it on the government for the massacre and atrocities meted during the politics of secession of northern frontier districts.
“We lost our livestock to drought, while for most of us our livestock were taken away by the government during the shifta war,(a conflict in which the ethnic Somalis in the Nothern kenya -(1963–1967) conflict in which ethnic Somalis in the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya attempted to join with their fellow Somalis in Greater Somali. The Kenyan government named the conflict “shifta”, after the Somali word for “bandit”, as part of a propaganda effort.“we came back to Kinna to farm, after we were released from DABA(concentration camp at Garbatula where they were held for 14 months).” ; Sora Molu, a farmer .
Despite all these challenges , jobless youth have sprung up to form a community based initiative to conserve the environment. Kinna Integrated Community Based Initiative – KICBI, saw the urge to protect, to conserve the water catchment areas and its ecosystem which is very important to them as a community. The group started contributing money to buy seedlings and paper bags to plant trees and established a nursery at a plot offered by one member, where they planted 10000 seedlings. Their effort immediately attracted the attention of an NGO called FH (food for the hungry), who offered to buy 5000 trees at Kshs.20 each and contracted them to plant in the schools within Kinna and Kulamawe a neighbouring center. Now that they are in business the group approached then county council of Isiolo for land, and they were given 5 acres plot at the water catchment in Kinna where they planted over 3000 trees. FH volunteered to fence the plot for them, the group grew in strength and started planting tomatoes after having bought a small generator from the proceeds, to pump water from the source to water the trees and irrigate the tomatoes.
These impressed world vision another NGO operating in the area and hence bought them a green house where they planted tomatoes and harvested a bumper harvest; they sold the produce at Kinna market and realized profit considering the input.
“We planted trees at schools in Kinna and Kulamawe, over 5500, we received good money out of it, we got 5 acres land from county council, FH helped us to fence the land, and luckily world vision toured our project at the water catchment and immediately offered to buy us green house and we did very well.” Muslima Godana ,vice chair lady to the group confirmed.
Similarly, other doors were opened for these young men and women who thought of conservation as an idea to kill boredom, pastime and the way to evade drugs, when world vision impressed by their role in the community, interviewed them and other community based organization within the area and they won the mantle to become the bridge between the community and world vision on sponsorship for children project, that is undertaken by the organization in the area. The young men and women are acting as community development facilitators and they cover even other neighbouring centres.
They divided themselves into two groups, to run both projects parallel to each other. The green house project was hampered by wildlife after elephants broke the fence and destroyed it, recently on its way to watering point at the water catchment and their generator broke down. The Kenya wildlife service promised to reconstruct the fence but they have not done that yet according to the vice-chair lady.
“We made two teams to operate with world vision and the other team to continue watering of trees at the water catchment and our small farm, though our green house project has been hampered, after elephant broke the fence and destroyed our water reservoir, generator broke down and we are watering the trees using water fetched on our backs, Kenya wildlife service have promised to repair the fence but they have not done it yet.” Muslima Godana pointed out.
They have complained to the Kenya wildlife service previously but it is hard for them to give them a reminder because the group members claim they are not accessible. Kenya wildlife Service Meru National Park officials were not accessible for comment. These young and vibrant pastoralists support from the community and conservationists, to help them achieve the goal of restoring the endowed natural capital of Kinna.