In 2020 E4Impact Foundation started the entrepreneurial training planned in the project “Support to Resilience for Sustainable Livelihoods” in Kenya’s West Pokot County. The project, funded by the European Union, is implemented by E4Impact together with CEFA Onlus, Northern Rangelands Trust, Amref Health Africa, and Somirenec.
The project intends to provide capacity building for the pastoral communities on livestock marketing, off-takes, animal health, and breed improvement; it also aims to improve linkages for the supply of farm inputs and crops’ marketing. To understand why this kind of intervention is fundamental, we need to go back in the years and overview the difficulties that the West Pokot communities have been facing.
‘Suus,’ a Pokot term for fodder, has become a talk of the town in Tikit Village in West Pokot. To the locals, Suus is a treasure, not because it is novel in the region but due to its prime role in saving the lives of both the locals and their livestock from the harsh jaws of drought.
As Ritakapel Ngirotiang begins to narrate, I could see pain and sorrow written all over his face. He talks of how they lost so many cattle in one season, forcing them to seek supernatural intervention to save them from the calamity. He recalls how they could go to riverbanks to pray to ‘Tororot ngo piipo keny’ the gods of rains and their ancestors, to give them rains to at least end the drought and bring hope to their motherland.
As she thinks deeply, Gladys Moler interjects and explains how her husband struggled to keep them and their livestock alive by migrating to Lomut during one of the drought seasons only to come back with two cows out of the 52. ‘Ki meghat,’ meaning it was deadly, she cries as she recalls then wipes her tears with her kikoi, a Pokot sheet mainly used by women as outer clothing worn on top of the main dress stops, and a somber mood fills the air. All the other group members bow their heads down as if they were cursing their day of birth since each one of them shared a similar ordeal at some point. This tragic turn of events has neither happened once nor twice, but several times before.
The last memorable drought occurrence was in 2009, and almost all the community households lost their cattle as a result. As Ritakapel narrates, that was their worst year ever. Almost every family was only left with skinny 2 or 3 cows. They had limited choices as they had no control over the situation but pray just to set an eye to the next day. However, the year 2010 was their turning point. The disaster changed their minds to focus on goat farming since they could withstand adverse climatic conditions than cows. With the new idea and focus, several households embraced goat rearing, and it continued for 4 years before county government intervention in 2013.
The goat farming idea became so lucrative that when the county government came in 2013, it felt the need to support it. Therefore, they educated the local producers through the Ministry of Livestock and Agriculture on modern ways of improving their goats’ quality and quantity. Suus was a good avenue towards the achievement of this goal. To increase productivity, there was a need to form small and manageable administrative units. The thinking led to the formation of the Simbol pastoralist group.
The county government of West Pokot promised to make a change. It came up with a proposal to help clear and plant the first 50-acre plot that the community had set under the Simbol pastoralist group. Consequently, in subsequent years, the community produced lots of fodder, which led to rearing cows again. In 2017, other community members wanted to emulate this brilliant progress, and hence Masol Demonstration plot came into existence. This group cleared and planted a 100-acre plot to produce fodder actively. However, the groups faced many drawbacks, including non-commitment of members, poor planning, poor record-keeping, and resource management. Overpowered by these challenges, Simbol Pastrolic became extinct while Masol’s demonstration plot struggled to survive to date.
With these challenges and the great potential seen in fodder production in the area, E4Impact Foundation has brought hope for reviving the groups and maximizing their potential through group management and dynamics training. Through this training, the E4Impact Foundation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Services, was able to register three more groups: Kalobot Sarmach, Kositei Turkwel, and Takaywa Ombolion. E4Impact Foundation also worked with the existing groups in strengthening their operation by capacity, building them in record keeping and entrepreneurship skills. Through coaching, the groups were assisted in drafting group constitutions that they appreciated, as seen in the testimonial below by Losiwan Lokidengole, a member of the Simbol pastoralist group.
‘Kinetat taa nete keng’arakech Nyoman, a kepetecha keinghoi lenyoni tekespiene NGO gruptinecho’ loosely translated this training has really impacted on us, and we commit to go and apply the teachings to revive our group and use them to benefit ourselves and our livestock.