From the skies, it looks like a massive battle ship gunning towards the shores of Baringo; or a gargantuan whale floating on the fresh waters of the lake.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nAs you get lower, the gruff whiskers on its edges green out into shrubbery, the rectangular scales on its back morph into shiny rooftops of houses serviced by pathways that branch off the main road like arteries.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nIt is the island of Kokwa on Lake Baringo and is home to more than 2,000 people, mainly the Ilchamus community (Njemps), the only fish-eating Maasai sub-tribe.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nKokwa is the picture of tranquillity, a paradise. But beyond the cover of serenity is a people who feel abandoned in their strife by both levels of government, and who are forced to improvise to accomplish many basic tasks.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\u201cWe are isolated by water from the mainland but lack of social amenities and even police officers to maintain law and order tells you the government has totally forgotten us,\u201d an elder, Jeremiah Lentupur, says.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nThe shortest distance to the mainland is a watery seven-kilometre stretch and with neither bridge nor ferry servicing the island, getting supplies and stock in and out requires skill, courage and stamina.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nAnd since the Njemps also practise pastoralism, no stock is trickier to get to the market across the treacherous depths than the prized cow.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\u201cWith dwindling supplies of fish in the lake, we resorted to keeping livestock. However, transporting them to the mainland is an uphill task,\u201d Michael Lesita, a pastoralist says.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nThe only way to access the market in Marigat some 18 kilometres away is for the cattle and some of the handlers \u2018to swim\u2019 across.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\u201cFrom the island to the mainland is approximately seven kilometres and it takes three hours to cover the distance with our cattle,\u201d he added.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nCows are, indeed, natural swimmers, but it\u2019s not just the distance these have to cover that makes it astounding, the wade is through waters infested by hippos and crocodiles.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\u201cLocal fishermen use canoes assembled using a couple of ambach tree logs and can carry a single man at a time, who paddles using an improvised piece of plastic,\u201d says Pembe Lenapunya, an octogenarian, who has fished for over three decades on the lake.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nTo make a successful trip, at least two people are needed \u2014one leads the way in a canoe, which in turn pulls the cow.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\u201cThe second person swims and prods the cow on from behind in case it hesitates,\u201d he says, adding that the task is left to professionals who are hired by the animal owner at Sh200 each.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\u201cIf one fails to sell the cattle, the torturous journey back starts. It is our way of life,\u201d Lesita says.\u00a0Lentupur says poverty levels are high in the area and literacy low.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe have one primary school serving more than 500 pupils and no secondary school. To access secondary education, students have to board in the mainland,\u201d he added.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nResidents rely on a community dispensary that\u2019s mostly out of drugs and is manned by a nurse who works three days a week.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nLocals hope political leaders at National and County levels will help awaken the sleeping island and not only visit the place in choppers when elections come calling.