Former cattle rustler turns model farmer

Ekuam Ng’asike, 54, a member of Karma harvests green grams on one of their farms in the Kerio River belt. The group cultivates maize, sorghum, finger millet and vegetables. PHOTO | WYCLIFF KIPSANG  

When his herd of cattle and flock of sheep were stolen by cattle rustlers two years ago, Ekuam Ng’asike, a resident of Kerio South, was simply being served a dose of his own medicine.

The 54-year-old was among the hundreds of rustlers who used to roam the River Kerio belt, stealing livestock in a vicious cycle of deadly banditry that has made the area infamous.

However, when his livestock were stolen one dawn in 2014, the father of four decided to leave this lawlessness behind and embrace the less hazardous life of agriculture.

Today, Ng’asike spends his days tending to vegetables (onions, sorghum, finger millet and maize) that he has grown on a two- and- half acre piece of land which borders West-Pokot and Turkana counties.

“The going was not easy after venturing into agriculture, a field that I had little knowledge about,” Mr Ng’asike told Enterprise when we paid him a visit at his farm.

“At one point I thought of giving up but I had no alternative source to maintain my family. I had to soldier on,” he added while inspecting the crop which was ready for sale at the market in Lodwar town.

Mr Ng’asike is part of Kaputir Resource Management Association (KARMA), comprising both reformed cattle rustlers and ordinary pastoralists who have now chosen to advance their lives through agriculture.

The association consists of 40 groups, each having between 20 and 30 members.

Fred Ekitela, the association’s co-ordinator said a majority of these groups are making over Sh100,000 per harvest, money that he says is still not enough.

Rough terrain

The rough terrain and harsh climatic conditions in the area, including low levels of water, has seen some members register lower returns of Sh50,000, leading the likes of Mr Ng’asike to contemplate ditching the venture.

Some of the crops grown by the farmers include sukuma wiki (kales), cabbages, capsicum, onions, watermelon and a variety of fruits, including oranges, mangoes and pawpaw, and grains like maize, sorghum and finger millet.

Last year, the association introduced bee-keeping as well as supplying tissue-culture bananas that have been engineered to do well in the dry areas such as where the pastoralists live.

Most of the crop is sold in Kainuk, Lokichar and Lodwar and Lokichoggio while other farmers have market links in South Sudan.

“It has taken us quite a long time to increase our crop output and break even,” Mr Ekitela said.

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