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African Drylands Institute for Sustainability
College of Agriculture and Veterinary Science
University of Nairobi
P.O. Box 29053 00625
Nairobi , Kenya /
Tel: 254-020-2133086
Fax: 254-020-632121


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Date and time: 
Fri, 2013-02-08 14:47

Yatta Constituency is one of the six constituencies that constitute the expansive Machakos County. It is located in the Arid and semi- arid (ASAL) regions of Kenya and receives erratic rains of less than 500mm annually. The temperatures range from 10oC to 28oC. The altitude of Yatta ranges between 700-800 meters above sea level befitting the bill for a hot tropical climate where evaporation exceeds rainfall. Inspite of the tough climatic conditions, the constituency plays host to approximately 148,000 people.

Just like other drylands, the region has suffered from acute food shortage forcing the community to rely on food relief locally referred to as “mwolyo” as a survival strategy. The overdependence on food relief however has never provided the much needed solution for the chronic food shortage because the aids always run out or are withheld due to various reasons.

Tired of the dependency syndrome, a number of households from Makutano village-Kenyatta Division decided to prove that residing in dry areas did not deter them from engaging in successful agricultural production and eliminate Mwolyo.

After the 2009 drought that hit the country, the households came together under a church-led project with the aim of kicking out hunger and eliminating relief for good. They initiated a project dubbed “Operation Mwolyo Out” (OMO), “Mwolyo” meaning relief in the local Kamba dialect. Dr. Bishop Titus Masika of Christian Impact Mission was chosen to head the project.

“People have lived on relief and the common word here is Mwolyo. This has been the vehicle members of parliament and councilors have ridden to get to power.So we wanted to get the people food secure and address issues of climate change,” Says Bishop Masika.

Bishop Masika explains that he was moved by a story covered by Nation media group of a lady named Kanyiva from the neighborhood who had died of hunger three days after giving birth to twin daughters. The death of the young lady prompted him to bring together various leaders to discuss sustainable solutions to food insecurity and come up with an exit strategy for relief interventions in the region.

“After discussions with the leaders, we came up with a program called “Operation Mwolyo Out” that embraced integrated community transformation approach that addresses various human dimensions including; religious, social change of mindset, economic, technological, environmental and political dimensions.” He said

According to the Bishop, one of the biggest challenges in the region was water scarcity. “Women used to go for more than 18 to 20km daily in search of water. We therefore put in place a plan that will ensure people have sufficient water.” He said

The community decided to come up with water harvesting methods. Each household was required to dig a water pan to store rain water which they would not only use for domestic purposes but also for irrigation. Within one year the community had dug more than 1,500 water pans.

Zai pits (planting pit with a diameter of 20-40 cm and a depth of 10-20 cm) were also dug in the farms to capture run-off water and to protect seeds and organic matter against being washed away.

Farmers were encouraged to adopt good agricultural techniques and plant high value crops with the aims of creating wealth, good health and jobs.They were required to divide one acre piece of land into five where by in a half an acre, they were to plant maize. The other half would then be sub divided further into four and would be used to plant high value crops such as tomatoes, cucumber, onions and chillies.

With this arrangement, villagers have now been able to feed their families comfortably; they are also able to sell their produce both locally and internationally hence becoming economically empowered.

A community which a few years suffered severely from the pangs of hunger is now leading the way in achieving food security and economic empowerment.

Jane Mwania, the chairperson of the group is all smiles as she explains to the University of Nairobi delegation. “We used to wake up at 2am in the morning to search for water and come back home at 4pm. Our children never went to school, the kind of education we had was water fetching. Our husbands run to Nairobi to look for greener pastures.”

According to her, after the OMO project was initiated, the women started another program called “Operation Men Back” with an aim of getting all the men out of Nairobi City back to the village to go and farm.

“Our men came back, got into the farm and now everything is green. In fact we have become donors ourselves.” She concludes.


Sample Pictures From the OMO Project



Expiry Date: 
Fri, 2014-05-16 14:47
Contact Person: 

Prof. Njoka

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