A farming group championing dry land farming in Dadaab has been named the 2012 United Nations Person of the Year in Kenya.
The chairman of the Gudliye Farm, Isaac Abdullahi Maalim who was an IOM nominee was awarded a United Nations Plaque at an elaborate ceremony marked with pomp and colour at the United Nations offices in Nairobi on 24 October 2012 during the United Nations Day.
This was the first time IOM Kenya nominated an individual or an institution in a highly competitive selection process that saw the Gudliye Farm beat five other nominees.
“I’m delighted to see the United Nations recognizing a simple farm group in Dadaab,” said an overjoyed Maalim as he was handed over the plaque. “We are really determined to boost food security not only in Dadaab, but Northern Kenya by embracing modern dry land farming,” he added.
The award ceremony now on its 10th year was graced by among others top United Nations representatives and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sam Ongeri. Ongeri lauded the winner saying that it’s a home grown idea whose time has come in light of last year’s Horn of Africa drought.
Gudliye Farm is an inspiring story of a group of pastoralists who are determined to survive and have adjusted their livelihoods in order to survive periods of drought and embraced modern dry land farming. In 1995, the group of sixteen pastoralists came together and formed a consortium and ventured into the unknown-farming. It was an alien idea to them as they all came from a family line of nomadic cattle and goat herders and for years had supported their families through the trade. However, their fortunes changed drastically over the years due to recurrent drought, forcing them to walk for hundreds of kilometres in search of pasture and water.
With the increasing frequency of the droughts they could no longer cope with the situation as all their animals succumbed to the severity of drought. “The situation was dire, it was disheartening to see all my animals die due to lack of pasture and water,” said Maalim . Without many alternatives, they turned to farming with an aim of investing in a long-term programme meant to provide sustainable solution for vulnerable populations. Little did they know they had embarked on a new lease of life that would transform their lives forever.
They later identified a 5 hectare land near the Dadaab airstrip and christened it Gudliye Farm. Among the crops they planted included maize, bananas, cassavas, cow peas, mangoes, green grams millets, guavas and pawpaw. Initially, they never hired labour and had to break their backs and do the farming themselves. For over a decade, they harvested enough to fend for their families and had enough food, but fortunes changed in November 2011 when they reaped a bumper harvest due to heavy rains experienced in the area and for the first time sold their surplus produce to local community.
Exterior to the farm, it’s a complete contrast; the land is sandy and dry. The unforgiving sun stares menacingly on the ground. “We are now contemplating to sell our produce to humanitarian organizations operating in the area. We fear that our crops may rot in the farm, unfortunately we don’t have storage facilities,” lamented Maalim adding that they are exploring ways on how to construct storage facilities.
Today, the group is made up of 160 members and are actively involved in crop farming, livestock production, environmental conservation and water harvesting. The group has been providing job opportunities in the community and further ensuring food security for the group and the community at large. The farm is directly and slowly transforming the lives of hundreds of beneficiaries affected by Horn of Africa drought. The farm has now become an attraction with the Ministry of Agriculture showcasing it as a model to encourage pastoralists from the area to embrace modern dry land farming as a viable alternative to pastoralism.