Home | TheWaterBlog

TheWaterBlog: If you want to share unique images and observations in this section, or would like to know about syndicating these posts, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

 

Turkana: From Desolation to Hope by Recognizing the Potential of Floods

Posted by Elly Yaluk and Loes van der Pluijm
December 08, 2017

In just three days in Turkana, of which I spent only one and a half days in the field, I was dazed by the expansive and flat land the people of Turkana are endowed with. Spate rivers famously known as lagha (known as wadi in other parts of the world) run through the land making it a place with high potential to develop the most productive spate irrigation systems in Kenya.

The people of Turkana are predominantly pastoralist but a high number of the population is converting to an agro-pastoral lifestyle thanks to the recurrent and lengthy droughts that have led to serious food insecurity, livestock deaths, and severe hunger. With an increasing population and hostile pastoralist neigbours, fierce conflicts erupt exacerbated by an increased demand for livestock pasture. Huge loses of life and livestock is the order of the day for Turkana people during these conflicts.  These life-threatening events have pushed a huge portion of the population into agriculture, fishing, gold mining and other low-return economic activities. Begging, homelessness and destitution are common among those who have lost their loved ones and their livestock-the only source of livelihood.

For decades the people of Turkana endured hardships without being provided sustainable livelihood alternatives. The Government of Kenya (GoK) through the Department of Land Reclamation (DLR) and support from World Food Programme (WFP) initiated Turkana Rehabilitation Programme (TRP) in the early 80s to reclaim degraded lands through construction of water harvesting structures (Trapezoidal bunds) and micro catchments where people could cultivate crops and feed their families. This programme only utilized harvesting of rain water within the bunds mainly for cultivation of sorghum - the main food crop for the Turkana people. TRP became a big success story in Turkana, with its foot prints in almost every corner of the expansive land. This was the testimony of the farmers’ group leaders from Kobuin, Loima, Kakuma and Lokichogio who were invited to the Flood-Based Livelihoods Network (FBLN) stakeholders meeting at Lodwar. They all echoed that they have seen and tasted the fruits of the programme activities; as they harvested their crops and enjoyed their meals with their families. Thus, there was finally light at the end of the tunnel for the Turkana people.

Turkana receives the least amount of rain in Kenya. It also receives the highest volumes of floods. All these years the people working and living in the land were blind to the worth of the huge floods flowing through the lagas emptying the precious commodity (water) into the nearby Lake Turkana. This is the land all rivers in the North Western part of Kenya flow into. River Turkwel, River Kerio and River Muruny including rivers from the hills in Eastern Uganda all flow into Lake Turkana passing through expansive dry and flat areas.

The main objective of the FBLN mission in Turkana was to create awareness among the stakeholders and the farmers’ leaders that Kenya is now a member of the larger FBLN family. This network is where lessons and experiences can be learned and shared from other countries that have for many years depended on floods as an asset to enhance their livelihoods. Turkana people stand to benefit a lot from this. One of the participants Mr. Timothy, who works with TRP, appreciated the fact that Turkana County can feed itself and also feed her hungry neigbours with the surplus they can produce under spate irrigation. He recalled that he and other four officers were sponsored by GIZ to attend a course on spate irrigation at Mekelle University, Ethiopia. They were amazed as they realized how much potential their land had in terms of addressing food security issues only if the spate irrigation potential is realised. His sentiments were echoed by the County government and GIZ representative who are now working together to pilot a spate irrigation system at Kobuin; an area identified to be of high potential.

During the final day of the field trip fortunately there were rains in Turkana. We encountered first-hand the magnitude and the effects of Turkana floods after our 4x4 land cruiser vehicle got stuck in an area notorious for its floods (Nadapal, near Lodwar town). This opened our eyes to the potential of harnessing these floods through for example initiatives to use harvest water off roads; which will prevent flood damage and erosion, enhance groundwater recharge, produce food and make the roads more effective.

  • Glaciers in Tajikistan: Pulling the Climate Change Trigger

    Glaciers in Tajikistan: Pulling the Climate Change Trigger Posted by Frank van Steenbergen and Jonathan Demenge November 13, 2017With 1000 glaciers  about to melt,  Tajikistan is at the forefront of climate change. There is nothing trivial about it. Glacier melt means many things: in the long run less water storage in the region, in the short run landslides, mudslides, and river flooding.   ...

    Read more

  • The Badakhshan Landslide

    The Badakhshan Landslide By Frank van Steenbergen and Marta Agujetas Perez November 7, 2017We are in Badakhshan. This is the high mountaineous border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan and only the pristine Panj River, fed by melting water from many glaciers in the region, separates the destinies of the two countries. Afghanistan: for decades in turmoil and tormented, but resilient. Tajikistan: rudel...

    Read more

  • A LECTURE ON WATER BY PROFESSOR NATURE

    A Lecture on Water, by Professor NatureBy Blessings JeranjiSeptember 29, 2017Water has obvious beneficial effects for the environment and communities. However, if not managed well it can have destructive powers. While on a field visit to the Mitundu Extension Planning Area (EPA) (on a Nissan Hardbody car), we had to make a U-turn as rains that day had made the road inaccessible. In the car was a t...

    Read more

  • 'Moon water harvesting' for volcanic wines in Lanzarote

    by Cecilia BorgiaOctober 03, 2017This story is about the ingenuity of women and men farmers in Lanzarote island of the Canary archipelago, who turned the ancestral punishment of volcanic forces and drought into a unique socio-cultural scenery: “La Geria”.The moon appears to be the repeating pattern here: its light gazes across the singular lunar landscape forged by solidified black lava and pa...

    Read more

  • Postcard from Mbitini: Roads against Drought

    Postcard from Mbitini: Roads against Droughtby Bobsammy Mwende Munyoki & Luwieke BosmaAugust 29, 2017Kenya: an economy that is growing quickly and a country that has emerged as one of Africa’s star performers. New transport infrastructure, roads and railways; a penetration of mobile phones and the innovative ‘Mpesa’ mobile money network; diversity of enterprise; the envy of neighbouring ...

    Read more

  • ‘Bajajs’: Filling the Mobility Gap in Rural Ethiopia

    ‘Bajajs’: Filling the Mobility Gap in Rural EthiopiaPosted by Abraham Abhishek, Cecilia Borgia, and Kebede ManjurJuly 17, 2017Blue-and-white three-wheeler motorized rickshaws, droning a constant drone as they lurch their way along unpaved roads, is a common sight in rural Ethiopia. The rickshaws are commonly known as ‘Bajaj,’ after what was perhaps the first brand to break into the Ethiopi...

    Read more

  • Postcard from Marracuene, Mozambique

    Postcard from Marracuene, MozambiquePosted by Frank van SteenbergenJune 30, 2017A civilization is measured by its care and not by its casualty – its attention for detail, its compassion for others, its cleanliness and attention for an environment jointly shared. This is where sanitation comes in and this is where things in many areas of the world have gradually improved. Maybe not as spectacular...

    Read more

  • Rice growing in the water

    Rice growing in the waterBlogpost by: Palal Moet MoetDo you know how to sow rice in deep water? In the soil – of course: ultimately all plants have to be rooted in soil. But what I want to describe is floating rice (FR) which is a range of traditional rice varieties adapted to large changes in flood water levels that occur during the rainy season. Can you believe if I say floating rice can elong...

    Read more

  • Lake Malawi: The Vanishing Blessing

    Lake Malawi: The Vanishing BlessingBlogpost by: Blessings Jeranji Shores of lake Malawi, everyday businessMalawi as a country has been blessed by a lake called Lake Malawi. It is not just a blessing but a source of blessings to the country and its people. These blessings visible in support of the country’s Agro-based economy. The lake is connected to all operations of sectors in the country. The...

    Read more

  • Gash the traveler

    Gash - The TravelerBlogpost by Ahmed A. Bagi Alamin  She starts her journey in Asmara City, and she always gets up after the heavy rains. Then she moves towards Sudan. It is somewhere in June. She crosses all the wonder valleys and passes the green hills, until the prospected guest reaches to Al Geerah village, where the Sudanese show her their respect to visit them. Despite their happiness, she...

    Read more