AgriBiz – Isiolo’s Untapped Potential
Agribusiness has always intrigued me and the idea that a semi-arid area like Isiolo can contribute to the Country’s food basket has never hit my mind. Isiolo receives only two seasons of short rains, around April and another one towards the end of the year and the other seasons are maybe very windy or serious sunshine. This weather isn’t convenient for agriculture which is dependent on these scanty rains, however, there seems to be a change of tact as different individuals have opted for Agribusiness to make ends meet. Pastoralist families are slowly looking for alternative means to supplement livestock rearing which is facing challenges from drought as well as rustlers.
I paid my friend’s farm a visit in Gambella, a town located in the outskirts of Isiolo town, the most amazing thing is the fact that no one still believes the farm is situated in Isiolo. The pictures which I shared on my social handles opened a whole new debate on the potential that lies untapped. The farm has onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and a number of vegetables which he sells to readily available market in both Isiolo Town as well as other neighboring Counties. He uses drip irrigation to provide water to his produce and he tells me the soil is great for agriculture and almost all types of crops would do well in the area. He isn’t the only one with a farm in Gambella, if you walk around the area you will be amazed how agribusiness is transforming people’s lives in an area considered unproductive.
“Why are most people yet to invest in agribusiness”, I ask him. “All this is attributed to lack of exposure, skills, and capital to venture into agribusiness”, he tells me. The persistent drought and climate change have affected pastoralist communities as many herds of cattle are lost due to drought. Pastoralists need to look for alternative means if they are to improve their living standards. Agriculture in Israel is a highly developed industry, the Country is a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that its geography is similar to most NFD Counties. More than half of the land area is desert, the climate, and lack of water resources do not favor farming. Only 20% of the land area is naturally arable. In 2008 agriculture represented 2.5% of total GDP and 3.6% of exports. While farmworkers made up only 3.7% of the workforce, Israel produced 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this with imports of grain, oilseeds, meat, coffee, cocoa, and sugar.
In Isiolo, some farmers have seriously invested in agribusiness, contrary to many people’s believes. The potential is there despite the challenges which keep pulling them down. With good roads to transport the farms produce, subsidized fertilizers and seeds, more boreholes, or even tractors to help in plowing the lands then we might be able to actually feed ourselves and become self-sustainable. The current farmers need to be supported and more people especially the youths need to seriously look into Agribusiness as another form of employment.
KHK is a social activist, nature lover and blogger from Isiolo.