We’re taking the opportunity to look back on ten years of the Furrows in the Desert initiative and see what had been achieved.
This ground breaking scheme has its origins in Israel where kibbutzim had developed agriculture in very arid regions. Our project partners in Turkana met with some of the leaders of this initiative to establish the feasibility of following the same approach there. As a result, a plan was agreed, and desert farming got underway in 2012.
The scheme is built on the knowledge and experience gained in farming in the Negev, with an emphasis on water usage, suitability of produce grown for the soil types, water availability and conservation, and climate. It is supported and run by a number of expert project partners.
The programme in essence consists of a 6-month training course at the model farm, for 15-20 students from among the semi-nomadic communities where reliable water sources have been installed. The syllabus includes soil and compost preparation, net houses and tree nurseries, pest control, drip irrigation, cooking of new types of crops, administration, adult literacy and marketing. After their training the trainees are sent back to their communities, where they start their own plots with the help of two assistants each, who in turn become part of the programme for an entire year. These teams become the new role models in the villages, showing that food production is possible, and that desert farming is a plausible means of livelihood in Turkana.
Turkana now has around 100 active farmers trained in this way, each of whom has two assistants. The farms are spread around 25 villages in the area and with each farm directly benefiting around ten people, and indirectly benefitting another twenty-five, the impact is felt by over 3500 people in the area. Dietary behaviour has changed as a result of the project with more vegetable consumption and resultant improvement in health and nutrition.
The scheme continues to grow, with developments such as the creation of the Pump Maintenance Unit to provide more water security, and more organisations seeking to partner with, and learn from, the project. Most of the maintenance staff are also local Turkana, so Furrows in the Desert also provides other types of job opportunities. The impact on the region is significant and promises to be more so in the future. It’s a great example of international cooperation, and a ten-year anniversary well worth celebrating.