Northern Kenya, the project area for Arid and Marginal Lands Recovery Consortium Project (ARC), has intermittently faced numerous disasters related to droughts, floods, conflicts and outbreak of diseases for long. These have negative effects on communities? livelihoods, assets and coping strategies especially the pastoralist. The effect has been a gradual deterioration of vulnerability of the community to shocks. The average poverty level is 70% and the way out from this vicious cycle is to explore on alternative and complementary livelihood options.
Courtesy of OFDA/USAID, CARE International in Kenya (CIK) is supporting 32 groups engaged in different enterprises including growing horticultural crops. Horsed women group with a membership of 35 is such group operating in Garissa. The group of marginal women farmers opted to practice traditional flood-receding agriculture along the Tana belt after losing their animals to drought. Before ARC intervention there was minimum activity in their farms as they lacked supplies and faced with limited knowledge and skills in growing horticultural crops. In July 2010, CIK started supporting the group by introducing fodder production as an enterprise. The group members were reluctant on the idea initially as the concept was new to them. They argued that it was a waste of their precious water and land, the project staff however continued to education them on the importance of fodder growing. The members changed their negative attitude towards fodder crop and provided land for fodder production. They were trained on fodder establishment, management practices, harvesting techniques and conservation. In addition they were supplied with 25 kilograms of Sudan grass seeds and 5 kilograms Boma Rhodes seeds which they planted on 2 of their 25 acres land.
Muslima Hussein, 35 years old, the chairlady of the group acknowledged importance of fodder. ?Fodder production is a viable enterprise that has changed the lives of many people in this community?, says Muslima. The group realized their first harvest in March 2011 when fodder sold at Garissa livestock market earned them Kshs. 25,000 (US$312). With part of the proceeds, they bought a cart to mount the pumping set as preparedness measure incase the river floods. In addition they started clearing more land, purchased seeds for tomatoes, capcicum and onions which they planted and now waiting to harvest.
The group also use the fodder to feed their animals which otherwise could have starved in the current drought. They are no longer buying animal feeds that cost Kshs 1,400 (US$17.5) per 50 Kgs bag per week. She also does not buy milk for her family. "I don't have to buy bunsha (Maize bran) anymore," she said. "I have enough feed for my cattle and shoats. Now that I don't buy feed, I can buy more food for my family." Says Muslima.
Muslima concludes by saying, ?We never thought we could plant xoos (grass) and sell to earn income, it is now giving us better returns since it is always on high demand compared to commonly grown crops which flood the market,? explains Muslima.