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2. Lokitaung pastoral development project - Turkana district


The Lokitaung Pastoral Development Project in Turkana District helps semi-nomadic Turkana people. LPDP is working in an arid and difficult region where there is a history of hardship and relief food aid. The programme began as the "Turkana Water Harvesting Project", helping to develop systems of water harvesting for crop production, while also introducing animal ploughing. The project has trained local people - many of them women - to become water harvesting technicians. The most interesting aspect of the project is its evolution into a long-term development programme, mostly concerned with pastoral production the main occupation of the local people. LPDP is largely managed by the local people themselves. In the context of the problems faced, LPDP has made significant progress.


Name: Lokitaung Pastoral Development Project

Contact: Pius Chuchu, Project Secretary

Address: P.O. Lokitaung, via Lodwar, Turkana District

Status: Self-help Project

Sponsor/Donor: Oxfam (Oxford, UK) supported by the Intermediate Technology Development Group (Rugby, UK)

Date of Start:

• 1984 started as the Turkana Water Harvesting Project
• 1990 became the Lokitaung Pastoral Development project


The vast majority of the Turkana people in Kenya's arid north-west are pastoralists. They herd camels, cattle, sheep and goats. The climate of Turkana is hot and dry, and when the rains do come, they are short and unreliable. The average rainfall is 360 mm, with as little as 115 mm in some years, and as much as 650 mm in others. Pastoralism is the most viable subsistence system. The balance can however, be upset by disease or drought. Crop production is not possible without irrigation or some form of water harvesting. In some areas, the Turkana carry out a little sorghum cropping, especially where flooding of rivers leaves some moisture in the ground.


Development projects have rarely succeeded in Turkana. Often projects have been based on food relief, and have been introduced hurriedly without proper planning. When the need for food relief ends, the "development" process also stops. Irrigation and fishery schemes have both been tried in Turkana, but with little success. In most of these cases the technology was inappropriate, and the social issues not properly considered.

Turkana District has always suffered from natural hardships - in 1979/80 livestock deaths and food shortages led to severe hunger, and the creation of relief camps. Food-for-work schemes were based around these camps, and one of the activities under this programme was water harvesting. The aim was to construct earth bunds to "harvest" rainwater runoff for growing crops and fodder. But most of the structures were poorly designed, and no thought was given to how the community would use the water harvesting systems afterwards. The people were more interested in the food than the activity! The result was that most of the structures were abandoned after being built.


The Lokitaung Pastoral Development Project began in 1984 as the "Turkana Water Harvesting Project" with the two objectives of:

• demonstrating appropriate rainwater harvesting systems;
• introducing animal draught for ploughing and earth moving.

This was at a time when food-for-work was still widely used by projects in Turkana. LPDP had little choice but to use food-for-work also, for the construction of rainwater harvesting systems. However the aim was to reduce food rations gradually and to put the people in charge of food distribution.

It was decided to organise management of the project under a local Management Board drawn from members of commit tees in each of the three project centres. The committees themselves would be based on existing local institutions. Management would be by the people themselves - with a minimum of outside help.

Activities at the start were centred around improved rainwater harvesting for sorghum production. The idea was that crops would help to supplement income from livestock, and by bartering surplus grain, families could rebuild their herds. The policy was to help families who only had a few animals remaining to "get back on their feet" as pastoralists.

Rainwater harvesting can make sorghum production a little more reliable in this area - and it was believed that improvement could be made to some of the bunding techniques used by earlier relief programmes. There was also much traditional agricultural knowledge to build on - an excellent starting point!


Water harvesting:

LPDP helps to improve existing sorghum gardens, and to establish some new ones. Traditionally some Turkana plant sorghum where rainwater runoff accumulates in natural depressions making growing conditions favourable. The local sorghum variety requires very little water and can be harvested after two months. LPDP aimed to improve the collection of rainwater runoff to give the crop more moisture to survive the arid conditions.


LPDP had a number of problems with early design of water harvesting systems. However much was learnt from the experiences of other projects in the area The technique has been developed over the years, and the locally trained technicians have helped to design improvements - such as a new spillway system, locally called "Irimeto" (see technical section).

The rainwater harvesting system consists of earth bunds on three sides of individual plots. These plots range in size from half an hectare to two hectares. The plots are sited where small channels bring runoff during storms and the runoff is held by the earth bunds. Surplus runoff runs away around the tips of the two "arms" which extend up the slope.

The earth bunds are built to a maximum of a metre in height, and are up to eight metres in base width. Although the earth is carried in metal basins by the workers, oxen have been trained to pull a scoop to bring heaps of soil closer. The scoops are also used to level the plots, so that the water will spread better, and the crops grow more evenly.

Animal Draught:



In addition to introducing oxen scoops, LPDP has trained oxen and donkeys to plough. Traditionally land is prepared by hand. The project brought in an animal draught trainer from another part of Kenya, who in turn trained one local Turkana in each of the three centres. A new and appropriate type of plough has been introduced - based on the Ethiopian ard. The ploughshares are made by local blacksmiths, and the frames of the ploughs are made from local wood.

Activities at the Community Stores:

Each of the three project centres has a community store which operates with a revolving fund. The two main activities are:

• Trading of skins (of sheep and goats). Families deliver skins to the stores. These are bought at a fair price and then sold to a mobile trader.

• Sales of food grain to assist food security. Each store keeps a supply of grain for sale. This guards against shortages in food supply.



Management of the Project:

LPDP is managed by a local Management Board. Members of the Management Board are drawn from the local committees, which are based at the three centres of activity - Loarengak, Kachoda and Kaaling. These three committees are based on traditional institutions.

LPDP receives financial and technical support from OXFAM and the Intermediate Technology Development Group respectively. A small number of local project staff are employed, including the Project Secretary, and the following staff at each of the three centres:

• an elder ("Ekarabon")
• a monitoring/store person
• a water harvesting technician
• an animal draught trainer.

Several of the project staff are women, as are the majority of the members of the local committees.

Organisation of the Water Harvesting Work:

When assistance is requested by a land user, the process is as follows:

1. The plot is visited by the local water harvesting technician, who recommends the work to be done if:

• the site is suitable
• the applicant has at least 15 sheep/goats
• a workforce can be organised
• the family has traditional land rights.

2. If approved, the technician designs the structures in cooperation with the land user.

3. A food-for-work contract is drawn up. This states how many bags of grain will be given to the family when the work is finished In early 1989, this averaged 6 sacks (90 kg each) per plot.

4. The work force is organised by the land user, and is usually composed of family members and friends. An oxen scoop may be borrowed from the local committee, but most of the construction is carried out by hand with simple tools such as hoes and basins.

5. The land user then contributes a goat to the village committee to build up community funds.

The contract system has worked very well, and very few families have failed to complete work on their gardens.


Food-for-work has been the main incentive to assist families in construction of water harvesting systems. There is a long history of food-for-work in the area, and when the project began, it would not have been possible to start such a programme without some food aid. The project has a clear policy on food-for-work:

1. to use food aid only when necessary, and to reduce rations gradually - thereby reducing dependence.
2. to put the people in charge of the distribution of their food.

One of the first moves by the project was to put elders in charge of the distribution of food rations. This delegated responsibility to the local people. A steady reduction in food rations has been achieved, and by 1989, the ration had been reduced to a quarter of that first given out.


One of the most positive aspects of the project is the way it has achieved local participation in management and the organisation of activities.

Voluntary participation in construction of water harvesting systems is growing all the time. In 1990 there was a shortage of food-for-work supplies, and yet construction continued. Maintenance of structures, almost everywhere, is voluntary.



There are regular training courses when staff are trained in a variety of skills. These include:

• water harvesting technology - design of systems;
• animal draught - how to use oxen to plough and scoop earth;
• monitoring - recording of data such as work rates and yields;
• general leadership and management skills.



By June 1990 over 200 families had received assistance to improve their sorghum plots. There are no exact figures on yield improvements, but the people say that yields have increased. More importantly the harvest is more reliable. It is said that a good harvest can be expected about three years out of five.



Change in Emphasis:

There are limits to what water harvesting for crop production can do for the Turkana. Many of the families in the area have already improved their plots. The Management Board has now decided to change the emphasis of the project from water harvesting to include livestock and food security.

Outside Assistance:

The project hopes to become self-reliant in the future. Already food-for-work is being phased out. But it remains to be seen how truly independent of outside assistance the project can become.


The water harvesting system is quite expensive- especially in relation to the unreliable yields in the arid conditions of Turkana. However costs have been reduced by the use of the oxen scoops. There may be a possibility of developing new ideas, such as using brushwood or planted shrubs to catch wind-blown sand and form bunds in a "natural" way.

Animal Draught:

Oxen/donkey ploughing has not been adopted as quickly as was hoped - it takes time to train people and their animals. However ploughing has been made quicker and easier now with the introduction of the Ethiopian ard-type plough.

Crop Husbandry:

Crop husbandry could be improved. This is one of the objectives of the future programme. A wider variety of crops and varieties could be planted, better pest control introduced, and more use made of "take-a-chance" planting of crops like cowpeas.


Improved monitoring systems are needed. These are indeed being developed in order to measure yields, the rate of restocking which has taken place, and other important effects of the project.


1. LPDP has been successful, despite its limited achievements, in the context of the very difficult environment of northwest Turkana.

2. The project has managed to develop into a community-based programme, with a reduced dependence on support from outside.

3. The project has also evolved from a simple water harvesting project to a long-term programme focusing particularly on the people's main priority, pastoralism.

4. Existing local institutions have made a very good base for the development of local management committees.

5. Food-for-work often leads to poor development projects, which do not last after the food relief ends. LPDP has managed to reduce the amounts of food allocated, and put its distribution into the hands of local people. The project is well on the way to phasing the food out of its programme.

6. Training of local people in the technical skills of water harvesting and animal draught has worked well.

7. The water harvesting system used by the project, although quite costly, works well. LPDP has taken models from other projects, and used its own experience to develop a system over a period of time. Locally trained staff have made an important contribution in this process.

8. Problems which are being faced by LPDP include the relatively high cost of its water harvesting system, the need to improve monitoring, a variable standard of crop husbandry and a rather uncertain future.

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