Tomatoes and Peace?
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In a county where rampant incidences of insecurity have been a bane for far too long, not forgetting the harsh climatic conditions that have made residents remain in constant grip of famine, Samburu County in Northern Kenya has always been making it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The killing of 42 Kenyan police officers in 2012 by heavily armed cattle raiders was the highlight trend of the worrying trend of insecurity in the region.
The Catholic Diocese of Maralal development office identified the Need to intervene through fundraising and implementing a sustainable livelihoods project in the region. Ten green houses have been installed so far. The capacities of the beneficaries have also been built through farmer Field Schools. A place that is famous for being a battleground is now a source of household vegetables such as tomatoes and has created income generation activities for women and youth. Through selling of greenhouse tomatoes, the beneficiaries now have disposable income and can understand the dynamics of working in groups for the benefit of everyone involved.
Before the Intervention, people from different ethnic backgrounds could hardly talk or meet in the same forums. This is slowly fading away as communities meet to discuss ideas and share best practices on modern farming technologies in greenhouses, open drip irrigation systems and marketing strategies as they embrace peaceful coexistence in their villages.
Through engaging the youth and women in productive income generating activities, there is certainly no room for young people to engage in acts like cattle rustling. Focus has now shifted from Highways banditry, politically instigated violence and negative traditional parctices that manifest themselves in the discrimination of women in the ownership and control of resources.. to best marketing strategies and learning from each other regardless of gender and ethnicity.
They say "peace is not absence of war" however, when you engage warring communities in activities that clearly add significant value to their lives and by observing the concept of "conflict sensitivity." More often than not our interventions shall always yield the desired results. The People of Kenya in Samburu North are now telling an interesting story of "Tomatoes as agents of Peace."