Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the saying goes. This is where residents of Kuresoi North have found themselves as they seek to protect their livestock from thieves.
While some resorted to selling their livestock rather than lose them to thieves, others are locking them up in the same houses they sleep in just to keep them away from rustlers.
Patrick Warugu, a Nyumba Kumi Initiative official at Temoyetta village, says residents have lost over 30 cows since the year started. A few have been recovered in forests.
“Cattle theft has become so rampant in this area. This has forced some of the residents to sell their animals. This is also hurting dairy farmers who have been relying on their animals to earn a living,” said Mr Warugu.
When The Standard visited his home at around 8pm, Warugu was watching TV with his family. He introduces us to the rest of the family but this is interrupted by bleating of sheep inside the house.
“Don’t mind that. That is how we live these days. The lamb must have gotten thirsty,” said Warugu as he stood up to stop the sheep coming where we were seated.
From the design of his house, you can tell the expansion came as an afterthought, to accommodate the livestock as a security measure.
“I have a barn outside but I cannot leave my livestock there. This will be like handing the animals to the thieves on a silver platter. I had to make a room for my livestock in this house,” said Warugu.
His neighbour, Albert Mwangi, has a barn where his animals stay. However, the barn is attached to his bedroom. This way, he will easily know when thieves strike.
Mwangi locks the barn of the ban from inside and leaves using a window that leads to his bedroom.
He says he adopted the strategy after losing five cows to thieves last December. Only two were recovered.
“Padlocks are no longer enough to secure our livestock. The thieves have a way of breaking them without us noticing. You only get shocked when you wake up, find the barn open and your livestock missing,” said Mwangi.
He added: “We have had to be creative to fight theft of cattle which has pushed many into poverty. We also ensure some iron sheets hang loosely on the door, in case the animals sleep in the barn, so we are easily alerted when there is an intruder.”
His home is adjacent to Temoyetta Police Post yet thieves still made away with his livestock.
At John Chege’s home, it is hard to tell where the animals sleep just from looking around. However, the animals sleep in a barn that has been established within the same house.
His bedroom has two doors, one is adjacent to the barn.
“This way it is not easy to steal my livestock. By the time someone attempts, neighbours will have arrived. Having the barn inside the house with multiple rooms would also confuse a thief,” said Chege.
Residents said most of the animals have been stolen during rains. It is had to hear someone breaking into a barn when it is raining heavily. It is also easy to break into mud-walled barns when they are damp.
John Gicamu said before the thieves started stealing animals, they noticed rampant poisoning of dogs.
“The dogs were standing in their way. We would find so many dogs dead but we did not know why. They would give them poisoned meat. Soon after, we started losing our livestock,” said Gicamu.
They suspect the thieves are aided by locals who know the terrain of the village who also know those with livestock.
Area Deputy County Commissioner Wilberforce Barasa has blamed theft of cattle in the area to businessmen who he said provide ready market for stolen livestock.
“These is a well organised crime with a number of players, from those who scout for the animals, those who steal them, the transporters and marketers. This is unethical business that ought to stop,” said Mr Barasa.
In March, a lorry ferrying 15 cows stolen from Kuresoi was intercepted at Seguton Trading Center and burnt. Two suspects were arrested.