Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The Dawa River is a perennial river in southeastern Ethiopia. Rising in the mountains east of Aleta Wendo, the Dawa flows south and east to join with the Ganale Dorya at the border with Somalia to become the Jubba. The river forms part of the Ethiopia–Kenya border and part of the Ethiopia–Somalia border.
This river is now the lifeline of the residents of Mandera. Two decades ago, the pastoralists of this area were facing starvation and lose of their one source of livelihood; their livestock. Years of relentless drought had made it difficult for them to earn a living from their livestock. The herding families then had to make a choice and change their lifestyle or face extinction, that is when they made to take up irrigated farming.
The pastoralists-cum-farmers have been able to improve food security and pasture production 69-year-old Ibrahim Ibrahim is one such farmer. He and a group of other farmers grow their food from the former border point irrigation scheme which was owned formerly by the government.
“ I have been able to buy camels and cows from the proceedings of my harvest and this has encouraged others to try their hand in farming,” said Ibrahim. Insecurity however is a major problem and sometimes they are forced to flee from their farms and this often leads to huge losses to the farmers.
“ This does not deter us from farming as we have ready market in Mandera town. We even have traders coming from as far as Nairobi to buy our produce. I have not moved away from pastrolism but my main source of income is farming. We exchange ideas with other like-minded farmers and make the best out of this resource we have within our reach,” he said.
Ibrahim's farm two acre farm has tomatoes, green pepper and onions. He leases the rest of the unused land to other farmers in the area. Samuel Gathima Njoroge, a businessman in Nairobi who buys onions from Mandera said his consumers prefer them as they are naturally grown and no fertilizers are used.
“ It takes four to five days to travel from Mandera to Nairobi but despite the challenge of transportation, buying onions from Mandera is much cheaper compared to Tanzania or Oloitoktok. It also convenient as you can get as much as 22 tonnes of onions from one farmer. I buy one kilogram at Sh 15 and sell at Sh 50 to 60,” said Njoroge.
A research by the Islamic Relief Kenya states that small holder farmers living in the riverine of Dawa River play a key role in ensuring food security. This in turn ensures that communities in Northern Kenya who are vulnerable to drought have access to sustainable sources of food and income.