West Pokot county and other counties that for a long time have been marginalized, have been known for issues ranging from cattle rustling, drought to hunger-food insecurity. It has become a vicious cycle of poverty. This, has however, prompted various stakeholders to come up with policies to curb the hunger issue in West Pokot.
Food & Agricultural Organization(FAO) which is funded by the Italian co-operation, with its vision being to work with governments to build food-secure countries, began a project particularly in Central Pokot, areas of Masol, Lomut, Ortum and its environs, with a focus to help farmers shift from traditional agriculture and embrace agribusiness.
According to Giuseppe De Bac-Projects Manager, FAO, nicknamed as ‘Lopon’g’ by the locals,experienced in facilitating communities in crop diversification, says that after making visits to Central Pokot, he realized that there was a huge potential for farming there, yet it had not been taken advantage of.

The orchard in Masol

“I was impressed with the soil fertility especially in Masol and I saw an opportunity for the communities here. That is why we began with an orchard here.”
FAO then established The Maradol paw-paw-hermaphrodite species- which yields about 70 papaws after 11months of maturity, mangoes and red peppers. Mr Giuseppe says that the chose the Maradol pawpaws because of their distinct features; dwarfs, hermaphrodite and having high yields.
In collaboration with the county government of West Pokot, FAO identified areas for demonstration plots, whereby the communities received trainings on how to plant and maintain the seedlings. The farmers were provided with seedlings at a subsidised price and water tanks. This has resulted in great transformation of the way of life of these communities.
David Kamama-Chairperson, Lomut Farmers’ Cooperative Society,says that FAO has played an integral role in empowering communities in Lomut,” We have been taught on how we will sustain our projects, and most importantly, on how to stay independent.”

Some of the women in Lomut displaying their mango chips

Mr Kamama maintains that FAO gave them the farming inputs they needed ranging from a nursery of grafted seedlings, a store for their products, water tanks and tours.
“This has been a great opportunity for us. Through Mango value addition, we have been able to get more money out of our mangoes. initially, we used to sell a 50kg bag of mangoes at Ksh. 250, but now we sell a kilogram of mango chips at ksh. 600. FAO has changed lives and Mr Giuseppe has left a great legacy.”

Close to 200 farmers have embraced fruit farming in Central Pokot as a way of earning their income as opposed to maize farming which sometimes fails due to harsh climatic conditions.
After working in Central Pokot for about two plus years, Mr Giuseppe believes that to some extent, his mission has been accomplished. “Change starts with a single person. If I was afraid of the insecurity in that area, we wouldn’t have been able to make a difference. I urge the county government of West Pokot to take up the projects and continue to empower the locals.”
FAO has already handed over the projects it has been undertaking in Central Pokot to the county government.