Water Projects Help Kenyans Look Beyond Crisis

Published on 31 March 2009

Veronica Kakuma, standing amid the sorghum she was able to plant thanks to her new water conservation system.

(Copyright: WFP/Gabrielle Menezes)

As WFP scales up general food distributions in Kenya, it is also using food to help poor farmers become less vulnerable to hunger in future. Veronica Kakuma built a water-conserving ‘bund’ and now has a sorghum crop she didn’t have before.

NAIROBI -- The acre of cool, green sorghum looks surreal next to the dry earth and thorn trees. In the middle of Turkana, one of the hottest and driest parts of Kenya, this crop has taken a lot of effort to cultivate. It only came about because Veronica Kakuma took part in a WFP ‘Food for Assets’ project.

She and the other participants received enough food to feed themselves and their families as payment to work on a project that would help them grow food. Veronica built a ‘bund’ -  a water conservation project designed to trap water between the flat, dyke walls built out of earth.

Eat more food

Last year, after the rains came, and water collected in the bund, it gradually filtered down into the dry soil. Veronica was then able to plant seeds in moist earth. She is now looking forward to the sorghum harvest when she and her family will begin to eat more food.

“Before this project we had problems to get enough food,” she said. “But now we are able to get crops that don’t only give us food, but also money because I can sell the surplus.” She explains that she can now afford to send her seven children to school, and is teaching them how to build a bund for the new crop.

Hit by global food crisis

Most people in Turkana are pastoralists and don’t grow enough to eat. Like everyone in Kenya, they have been hit hard by the global food crisis. The price of the staple maize has risen by 80 percent. Livestock is equivalent to wealth here. People have to now sell three goats to buy a single bag of maize. Last year, a bag of maize was slightly more expensive than the cost of a single goat. Now, disease has also killed many goats, further impoverishing people.

In response to the food crisis, WFP is scaling up its operations to feed 3.5 million Kenyans, but this is a short term solution. WFP is also scaling up Food for Assets Projects like the one Veronica took part in.

“We don’t have enough food now, but after doing all this work, with this new style of growing crops, we will be able to have more food, and also keep our animals,” says Asacoin Mady, another woman who received WFP food assistance.

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about the author

Gabrielle Menezes

Public Information Officer for Kenya

Gabrielle Menezes joined WFP in 2008 and is currently a public information officer for the organization in Nairobi.