Furrows in the Desert (FID) is an agricultural development program based on Israeli expertise in desert agriculture and designed for the Turkana region in north-east Kenya. The program introduces desert agriculture to the area as a source of food production and a means to generate income. Its aim is to reduce poverty in the region and to assist the population in regaining their economic independence.
FID trains local people in agriculture and supports them in their first steps as new farmers. The program includes a 6-month hands-on training period in a central farm. The trainees study the various stages of growing crops and the practices appropriate for local conditions. After completing their training, the graduates establish their own family plots, and receive agricultural inputs (seeds, tools, irrigation systems, fertilizers, etc.), in-field guidance and assistance in marketing their agricultural products.
In its second stage, the program establishes community scale plantations along big water reservoirs (mainly Lake Turkana). These plantations provide hundreds of jobs for local residents and aim to attract investors from abroad, which can have a far-reaching influence on the district economy.
FID promotes agricultural methods appropriate for the area, based on 4 agricultural models:
- Family plots based on low pressure irrigation systems. These plots can be irrigated by boreholes or by larger water sources.
- Limans (plots irrigated by flood water in riverbeds which are diverted to small canals).
- Plots irrigated by dam or earth pan reservoirs (rain water reservoirs).
- Large scale plantations irrigated by Lake Turkana.
The program also trains local instructors to become part of the program staff (training the trainers), and spread agricultural knowledge in the area through additional activities:
- The training graduates train local people as assistants for their family plots.
- The volunteers will run educational activities in the fields of agriculture and nutrition in local mother & child centers.
FID has gained the approval of the Kenyan government and the support of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs through MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and the Israeli embassy in Kenya.
FID is developed and operated jointly by Brit Olam and two other organizations:
Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle (MCSPA): an International Catholic humanitarian NGO which has been based and active in Turkana since 1987 in the fields of water, agricultural, health and education infrastructures.
Arava Center for Sustainable Development (ACSD)– part of Arava Institute for environmental Studies, an Israeli research center specializing in water resources management, sustainable agriculture, agriculture under desert conditions and renewable energy.
Turkana is a semi-arid district in north-west Kenya, populated by the Turkana tribe, nomadic pastoralists. To date, due to climatic, demographic and geopolitical changes, the Turkana can no longer live off traditional pastoralism. The rising frequency of droughts in the area results in the destruction of the livestock, on which their livelihood depends. These conditions lead to malnutrition, starvation and death, especially among children, as well as diseases, conflicts with the neighboring tribes and dependency on international aid organizations.
The target area of FID is north-east Turkana, which is populated by approximately 140,000 people, about half of them children and youth. Until the beginning of the program, traditional pastoralism has been the only means of food production in this area. During the years of its activity in North Turkana, MCSPA has developed a network of water sources: rock dams and water pans, deep wells and wind-pumps, source protection and elevated tanks for irrigation. This infrastructure serves as a foundation for FID agricultural program.