In a move to diversify from the traditional cattle keeping that has been prevalent in West Pokot County, the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) has initiated an ambitious plan to replenish Turkwel Dam with Sh1 million worth of fingerlings.
The multimillion project being conducted in phases targets at empowering the locals around the dam to shift from entirely depending on livestock keeping that has been touted as the major cause of banditry and instead embrace fish farming for better nutrition and wealth creation.
Already the authority in collaboration with the University of Eldoret has supplied the dam with 200,000 fingerlings which when harvested is estimated to fetch over Sh20 million in the next five months.
KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos, says the project is a three pronged initiative of increasing household incomes for communities living around the dam together with implementation of the government policy on blue economy.
“We want to mainstream fish farming as an alternative source of livelihood and offer food and nutritional security to the locals. In the next two to three years, the dam should produce over 100 metric tonnes to rival Lakes Turkana and Victoria in fish supply,” stated Naporos at the dam during a stocking exercise.
The MD hinted that the locals have been sensitised on fish rearing together with ensuring that they form Beach Management Units (BMU) for regulation and enforcement of laws with regards to the dam use.
“Climate change results into escalation of resource based conflicts owing to the large stocks associated with the pastoralist communities. Fish will for sure sustain the economic livelihoods of the communities especially on sustainability of household incomes and food supply,” he posed.
He regretted that the region, for ages, has been branded as a skirmishes zone where cattle rustling and banditry was common thus scaring away investors.
According to a “Mending the Rift” report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the skirmishes have been attributed to resource mobilisation by local communities but it has since mutated into organised crime hence a need for a paradigm shift over the overreliance on livestock keeping which has been blamed for the raids.
“KVDA is advocating for fish farming and bee keeping as an alternative. Locals are receptive to the venture. We are looking forward to introducing cage fish farming to help the fish grow faster because the fish is directly fed and easily harvested,” Naporos reiterated.
He explained that the University of Eldoret is aiding them in research and supply of the fingerlings as well as offering technical support.
According to a KVDA Director Philip Rotino, the dam has had immense support in peace building since the majority of the youth now engage in several activities such as navigating the boats across the dam and fishing.
“Fishermen and fish traders are making a decent living thus dissuading them from raids that they were accustomed to. The restocking of the dam will undoubtedly alter the means of livelihood in the region,” said Rotino.
BMU chairman Lopuo Lotingwang said that apart from the restocking, residents have also been supplied with four boats and safety jackets thus encouraging many locals to embrace fish farming.
“We have witnessed significant reduction in cases of animal raids and banditry along the Kitale-Lodwar Highway since the first restocking almost a decade ago. This is a game changer in the region in regard to peace and development because the majority of the youths are now in the lake,” he said, maintaining that the ongoing skirmishes are now along the border areas only.
His sentiments were echoed by Chief Joseph Siwa, saying criminal activities have gone down in the area and with the more fish in the water; many people will shift their source of livelihood to fish farming.
Since 2019, thousands of people in the Turkwel area in West Pokot County who depend on fish farming as their source of income have been deprived of their livelihoods following the decline of fish stock at Turkwel Dam and prolonged drought that hit livestock farming in the region.