Fishing and Firearms on Lake Turkana

“When Simon Choko goes out fishing on Kenya’s lake Turkana, he brings a gun as well as a net. In the drought-stricken corner of northwestern Kenya, the native Turkana community to which Choko belongs is involved in deadly conflict with rivals from across the border in neighboring Ethiopia, as the poor populations compete for dwindling food.

The Turkana are traditionally nomadic pastoralists but they have seen the grass that they need to feed their herds wither in the face of recurring droughts. As conditions change, the Turkana have had to change too, and many have turned to fishing.

The trend began back in the 1960s, following a devastating drought, which wiped out entire herds. As a new source of survival, the government started to introduce communities to fishing in the plentiful waters of the vast and then mostly untouched Lake Turkana.

Authorities gave out fishing nets and resettled affected communities in villages along the shores of the lake. The change was a tough one for many Turkana, a society where a man’s status is traditionally linked to the size of his herd and “fish-eater” used to be an insult.

But people adapted and a new economy geared up, although for many it was a way to save money by selling fish in order to eventually restock their lost herds and go back to their pastoralists roots.

But things have changed again. Lake Turkana is overfished, and scarcity of food is fuelling long-standing tensions with Ethiopian indigenous Dhaasanac, who have seen their grazing grounds squeezed by large-scale government agricultural schemes in southern Ethiopia, and who now venture ever deeper into Kenyan territory in search of fish and grass.

The conflict is just one example of clashes that take place between different ethnic groups in various parts of Kenya over cattle-raiding, politics and limited resources.

Here, the Turkana community fishing near Todonyang, close to the Ethiopian border, have formed themselves into a well-organized armed group, as they fear attacks both on the lake and on the shores, where they have set up temporary fishing camps”. – Siegfried Modola via Reuters


A Turkana girl holds a lamb at the end of the day inside her family’s cattle kraal in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 14, 2013The Turkana are traditionally nomadic pastoralists, but they have seen the pasture that they need to feed their herds suffer from recurring droughts and many have turned to fishing. However, Lake Turkana is overfished, and scarcity of food and pastureland is fuelling long-standing conflict with Ethiopian indigenous Dhaasanac, who have seen grazing grounds squeezed by large-scale government agricultural schemes in southern Ethiopia. The Dhaasanac now venture ever deeper into Kenyan territory in search of fish and grass, clashing with neighbours. Fighting between the communities has a long history, but the conflict has become ever more fatal as automatic weapons from other regional conflicts seep into the area. While the Turkana region is short of basics like grass and ground-water, it contains other resources including oil reserves and massive, newly discovered underground aquifers. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana fisherman holds a freshly caught fish on Lake Turkana, some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 12, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


An armed Turkana man walks towards the shores of Lake Turkana near a temporary fishing camp some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 12, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A temporary Turkana fishing camp is seen on the shores of Lake Turkana some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 12, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Kenyan soldier from the Rapid Deployment Unit, an emergency response unit who were deployed due to reoccurring clashes and killings between Turkana and Dhaasanac communities, looks at a cow which is dying from hunger, a few hundred meters from the official boundary of the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 13, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A woman with traditional Turkana scarring sits in a kraal in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle of northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 14, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana boy herds livestock to grazing grounds in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 15, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


Ngimalia Ilete, the leader of a Turkana cattle kraal shows his traditional scars, which prove that he his an able warrior who has killed enemies in the past, in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle of northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 14, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana man and a boy carrying a gun look on as a G3 battle rifle hangs from a structure used to dry fish at a fishing camp on the shores of Lake Turkana, some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 12, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana man herds livestock back from grazing grounds at the end of the day in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 14, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana woman poses for a photograph as she milks her goats the end of the day in her family’s cattle kraal in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 14, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana boy carries a pot as he walks under a structure used to dry fish at a fishing camp on the shores of Lake Turkana, some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 12, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana boy herds livestock to grazing grounds in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 15, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana man pushes a boat as he prepares to venture onto Lake Turkana for the day’s fishing, some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 13, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


A Turkana man sits on the shore of Lake Turkana, some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 12, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


Livestock is seen inside a Turkana cattle kraal, as food is cooked on a fire, in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 14, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)


Turkana fisherman sail at the beginning of the day’s fishing on Lake Turkana, some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 13, 2013. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters)

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