Diakonia - People change the world
Today Namwomwa Yakobo is a farmer, instead of living of stealing cattle.

He traded his gun for a garden hoe

Namwomwa Yakobo used to be a cattle rustler but after two of his best friends were killed in front of him, he decided he’d had enough. Putting away his gun, he’s now growing mangos and vegetables to feed his family. “This is a very good project,” he says. “It’s not death like cattle rustling.”

Like many other men in East Pokot, he was groomed from an early age to become a cattle herder and warrior, capable of stealing cattle from other communities. During drought periods, Namwoma and other herdsmen would take their cattle as far as the Turkana border, about 100 kilometersfrom his village, in search of pasture. Other times, they would go on rustling expeditions to Turkana. It was during his fourth raid that his friends were killed.

“I sat down and said to myself that cattle rustling is very risky. I began to notice that my neighbour had planted mango trees and they were doing well. So I thought of switching from cattle rustling to planting mangoes,” he says. Namwoma then bought mango and pawpaw seedlings and banana plants, which he planted. However, most of the seedlings died due to lack of water. Undeterred, he planted cassava; the plants survived and he has already had his first harvest.

Using pan dams to grow

Namwomwa was taken by a Diakonia-supported project to a demonstration farm in Yatta to see how farming can work in dry areas. The skills he learned included how to harvest rainwater using silanga (pan dams). “I came to realise that the silanga is the source of life for my trees,” he says. Namwomwa was able to see that it was possible to grow many mango and banana trees.

On his return home, he sold his camel and used the money to hire people to dig the pan dam on his farm. With the water from the dam, Namwoma is also able to plant vegetables such as kale and tomatoes to feed his family and is looking forward to expanding his farming business. He has also formed a group and is teaching them how to dig pan dams and work the land.

The project Diakonia is supporting works to improve resilience to the effects of climate change for Namwomwa’s community in East Pokot and safeguard their food security. East Pokot’s climate is classed as arid and semi-arid and the main inhabitants, the Pokot, are pastoralists who are highly dependent on their livestock for survival.