In Kenya, tribes that once roamed over 25,000 square miles (approx. 56,000 square kilometres) of semi-desert have had to change their nomadic life-style because of continuing drought.
In Kenya, tribes that once roamed over 25,000 square miles (approx. 56,000 square kilometres) of semi-desert have had to change their nomadic life-style because of continuing drought. The people until recently existed on a staple diet of blood mixed with soured milk, lived in grass huts and raided each other's cattle. But more thana decade of recurring drought took great tolls on their livestock and on the people themselves. Now with the help of the Kenyan government and the United Nations the people are irrigating and farming the arid lands they once roamed.
SYNOPSIS: The Turkana tribes once lived in groups of ten families and followed the infrequent rains to find new grazing areas for their cattle.
Their staple diet was meat and blood, which they got by firing an arrow into the jugular vein of the animal. In 1962 drought wiped out much of the Turkana stock. The people who survived found their way to "famine camps" set up by voluntary agencies.
Many people never left the camps and most Turkana children will never know the nomadic lives their parents once led. For some housing remains the traditional mud hut, but for others there is modern accommodation. As one Turkana man said "it's not so flimsy as the old that often fell down with sharp gusts of wind".
A few years ago women and children arrived at the camps--children with swollen bellys and women starving and unable to feed their babies. But today the women are actively employed in agricultural projects attached to their camps.
With the guidance of teachers from the Kenyan Department of Agriculture and the United Nations, the Turkana people have learned to cultivate maize, vegetables and cotton.
Crops are rotated and grown during an eight months growing season. The soil is rich in phosphate and the river water in nitrogen, so there is no need for expensive fertilizer. Eventually each family will have two acres of cultivated land.
The Turkwell River and its tributaries feed the parched fields during the rainy season. And after planting the hard work begins.
The irrigation scheme is a relatively simple one---water is drawn through cheap plastic tubes from canals six inches above the level of the fields. Here, this year's maize crop thrives.
The short-term effect of the projects has meant the Turkana people are living longer and healthier lives. Infant mortality has fallen and life expectancy has increased. In fact, there has been a population explosion which means the demand for cultivated land is steadily increasing. Survey teams sponsored by the United Nations and the Kenyan government continue to study ways to provide year-round water supplies and develop 10,000 acres of fertile land, to meet the needs of the former nomads.