The year 2011 was characterized by drought which saw most areas in Samburu County experiencing below normal rainfall. The ensuing drought resulted in restricted food and livestock production, there were also noteworthy cases of food insecurity and malnutrition in Samburu North District. Consequently there was increased insecurity and inter-ethnic conflicts resulting in displacement of households from Nachola, Ngilai, Elbarta, and Kawop to villages near Northern Samburu (Lolmolog, Angata, and Logorate). Limited access to sufficient water and food insecurity in these areas continued to escalate inter-ethnic conflicts in the region.
In a county where rampant incidences of insecurity has been a bane for far too long, not forgetting the harsh climatic conditions that have made residents remain in a constant grip of famine, Samburu has always been making it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The killing of 42 Kenyan police officers by heavily armed cattle raiders was the highlight of the worrying trend of insecurity in the region.
In 2012, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in collaboration with Caritas Maralal ( The development arm of the Catholic church in Samburu) identified the need to intervene and transform the lives of the communities living in the area through the “promoting peace and resilient livelihoods in Samburu North” Project. One of the immediate results of the said project that is funded by the Vista Hermosa Foundation is that; target communities have adopted improved agricultural and natural resource management practices and youths/warriors engage in community efforts to resolve conflicts through constitutional and/or customary means.
The project targets 2,000 direct beneficiaries and 10,000 indirect beneficiaries and has been working with the communities in Samburu North to improve their agriculture and natural resource management practices and ensuring that the women and youth have adopted sustainable economic practices.
Key activities implemented over the period include; Training of youth groups in market opportunities and identification skills, Launching of Farmer field schools (FFS) where training modules for high value vegetables(Tomatoes, Onions ,Capsicum and Kales) were introduced, Practical training sessions to Partner staffs and beneficiaries on crop management in greenhouses(Seedbed preparation, transplanting, weeding ,staking ,spray and fertilizer regimes), Participating in Peace caravan walks, Facilitating inter-ethnic peace dialogues and Capacity strengthening of village peace committees.
The “Samburu Early recovery water” project that is being run concurrently by Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Maralal has seen the rehabilitation of a gravity water system in Waso Rongai that is supporting production of high value vegetables in Greenhouses and Open drip irrigation systems in Waso Rongai. Further, the interventions have seen an installation of 8 greenhouses and open drip irrigation systems in Tuum, Logetei, Waso rongai, Nachola and Bendera where the communities rely on shallow wells and gravity water systems in production of high value vegetables(Tomatoes,Onions,Kales and Capsicum).
The economy of Samburu District is dependent on livestock and animal husbandry. However as a result of this project, this is gradually changing and communities in Samburu North are now telling a different story. A place that is famous for being a battleground is now a source of household vegetables such as Tomatoes and has created income generation activities for Women and youth.
Before the intervention, Morans from different ethnic backgrounds could hardly talk or meet in the same forums. This is slowly fading out as communities now meet to discuss ideas and share best practices on modern farming technologies in Greenhouses, open drip irrigation systems and marketing strategies as they embrace peaceful coexistence in their villages.
Through engaging the youth and women in productive income generating activities, there is certainly no room for the young Morans to engage in acts like cattle rustling since they have alternative sources of livelihoods. Focus has now shifted from highway banditry, politically instigated violence and negative cultural practices that manifest themselves in discrimination of women in the ownership and control of resources to best marketing strategies and learning from each other regardless of gender and ethnicity. The project has seen increased social interaction among warring communities thus fostering a favorable environment for peace and sustainable development for women and young Morans who have also been empowered economically.
Through selling of the tomatoes, the beneficiaries have disposable income and can understand the dynamics of working in groups for the benefit of everyone involved. This has further strengthened their coping mechanisms, resilience to future droughts and ultimately improved their overall quality of life.
They say that “peace is not absence of war” .However, when you engage warring communities in activities that clearly add significant value to their lives through embracing the concept of conflict sensitivity, more often than not the interventions shall always yield the desired results . In Samburu North, it’s not about the Turkanas, Pokots and the Samburus anymore;it’s about the interventions that have seen Greenhouse Tomatoes as “agents” of peace in Samburu North.