Naperit Edukon’s farm located in Nyangait village, Turkana County, is breath-taking. It is dotted with sorghum, amaranth, maize, cowpeas and other crops. He also rears a sizeable number of livestock.

The 53-year-old says he finds solace in his half-an-acre farm that enables him feed his family.

“I have some livestock that remained following frequent banditry attacks and drought. But my goats and vegetables have raised my standards of living,” he notes.

Mr Edukon observes that there is a ready market for his vegetables at Katilu Centre and his amaranth, commonly known as terere, and cowpeas, gives him good returns.

Preserve of women

He is among few men in the Turkana community who are slowly taking up farming to feed their families, which for many decades been a preserve for women.

“Culturally, it is considered a woman’s job to ensure the family has food. That is why during drought, it is rare for men to struggle with women during a gathering to receive relief food rations,” he says.

In his community, men are known to ensure that the family’s wealth (livestock) gets pasture even if it means migrating to neighbouring countries like Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia to access water and pasture.

“We are being forced to adapt to agriculture, which is a  new way of survival for us. Many men who are energetic, instead of assisting our women or individually learning the basic farming techniques, have  made farming a women’s role,” says Edukon.

Lactating mothers

Turkana County Government, in collaboration with Africare – a Non-Governmental Organization  -enrolled them to an Improved Approach to Community-Based Nutrition (Impact) program that targets 25,000 children, pregnant and lactating mothers at Turkwel and Katilu wards.

He regrets that  men who have lost all their livestock to floods or drought don’t show commitment to venture into farming as the best and reliable alternative source of livelihood.

“I learnt that my wife had embraced farming to keep our children healthy where consumption of vegetables and fruits was one of the greatest secret to fight malnutrition which is common at our village,” says the farmer.

Despite high poverty levels, many men have remained adamant to embrace farming.

Naperit Edukon at his amaranth farm in Nyangait village in Katilu Ward. Men are taking the lead in farming to fight malnutrition and earn extra income.

“I realised it is time to change my perception and focus on my family. Through community barazas on health, we have been sensitised on how to ensure our children are healthy,” he observes.

Asked what fellow men think of him for engaging in farming, he says the money he gets from the farm is what keeps him focused.

Turkwel Ward Agriculture Outreach official Jonnes Lopeyok, says the ongoing five-year IMPACT program funded by Bayer Fund at Sh500 million, is aimed at addressing immediate causes of malnutrition by improving access to quality health services and increase knowledge for prevention and treatment of malnutrition.

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok says there is a need for behavioral change among residents to help tackle rising cases of acute malnutrition.

He notes that all sub-counties in Turkana recorded unacceptable global malnutrition rates above the accepted 15 percent for the past three consecutive years.

Mr Nanok encourages all men to have a direct role in ensuring that their families feed on nutritious food.

“Most men in Turkana have little knowledge regarding food availability at their household level. They have to take a leadership role by supporting efforts by wives to access nutritious foods either by embracing farming or have commitment in purchasing food,” says the governor.

This story first appeared on the Daily Nation (Link below):

https://nation.africa/kenya/gender/defying-odds-turkana-men-take-up-women-s-role-1934222

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