Kenya: “Coordination can save our lives,” says Turkana village elder

28 Feb 2013

Women carry grass in the drought affected area of Turkana, Kenya. Turkana residents welcome focus on Human Security and express optimism about a project aimed at using the area’s natural resources more efficiently. Credit: OCHA/ Shravan Vidyarthi
Turkana residents welcome focus on Human Security.

Village elders in the Turkana region of northwest Kenya have expressed optimism about a project aimed at strengthening resilience to natural disasters by providing alternative coping mechanisms, saying that the area’s natural resources are not being used efficiently.

“Our community has quite a number of potential forms of livelihood,” said Ekadeli Ibei of the Lokiriama Livestock Marketing Association, speaking to a humanitarian team conducting a survey in the area. “We are tired of being labeled ‘a community in disaster’. Turkana County is richly endowed, including with minerals and fertile lands.

“We are pastoralists. We can scout longer distances. The quality of meat from our livestock is considered among the best and fetches better prices across the border; a major cause of the frequent cattle raids and insecurity in our border areas,” he said.

The village elder added that better coordination was essential to improving the area’s prospects. 

“Livelihoods can only be enhanced if we work together – the community, partners, Government and all other stakeholders – to ensure that the support provided really meets the actual needs on the ground,” Mr. Ibei said.

“Coordination can save our lives. This is what is missing in this area.”

This community representative was consulted as part of a baseline survey by OCHA and humanitarian partners for a US$6.1 million project aimed at strengthening human security in border communities in Turkana. The project is funded by the UN Human Security Trust Fund and will be implemented in Turkana Central and Loima Districts over a three-year period. It aims to help people cope with natural disasters through support for livelihoods, food security, education and healthcare.

People in Kalokol, closer to Lake Turkana, agreed that the Turkana area is not making full use of its natural resources.

“The potential in the fishing industry is enormous,” said Akira Alila of the Kamugengiro Women Group in Kalokool. “We have some of the best fish species in the country. The fishing company has remained dormant for years and we lack proper market structures, fishing equipment and skills to support productive trade. Middlemen from other towns are exploiting us.”

Members of Riam Riam Turkana, an NGO consortium, added that there were water resources in the region.

“Even our local women and young children are able to dig with their bare hands and tap water for their households,” said one. “We are sure with proper technical expertise we can do better.”

The survey findings will be presented at a stakeholders’ forum in Turkana on 12 February. Partners involved in the project include the UN Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Organization for Migration , UNICEF, and ILO.Since consolidated humanitarian programming is being phased out in Kenya, OCHA will seek to transfer its coordination role to another agency after 2013.

The OCHA-managed UN Human Security Trust Fund was established in 1999 to promote human security through the protection and empowerment of people and communities threatened in their survival, livelihoods and dignity. Since 1999, it has committed over $350 million to projects in more than 80 countries.

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