A woman uproots the Ipomoea weed in Kumpa, Kajiado Central, last Thursday. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

While the rains came as a blessing after a long dry spell, herders in the county are worried about insufficient pasture as a result of an invasive weed that has affected thousands of acres of land.

The evergreen weed known as Ipomoea cannot be eaten by livestock and neither grass grow under it or in its surroundings.

In addition, the strong scent from the weed’s flowers is said to cause respiratory complications and sneezing, especially in the evening.

Eradicating the weed has been a nightmare because the seeds are easily carried by wind and spread across other areas.

Residents also fear that their children are at risk from consuming honey from the plant, which is associated with drowsiness and when consumed in high quantities, adversely affects their health.

According to John ole Parken, a livestock farmer in Kenyawa ward, Kajiado East, at least 5,000 acres of his land have been invaded by the poisonous weed.

Spread quickly

Mr Parken revealed that the weed had spread quickly with the onset of the rains thereby destroying acres of pasture. He has resorted to buying feed for his livestock.

“The weed started spreading fast when the rains began. There is no more grass for my livestock to feed on. I have to buy feeds for them. We are appealing to the county government to come to our aid and help us get rid of this weed before it eats up all the grass,” he said.

Solomon ole Matiko, a livestock farmer from Kumpa in Kajiado Central, said the weed had invaded half of his pasture and he had to take some of his livestock to his brother’s farm as he could not afford to feed them.

“This weed is very dangerous - where it grows, grass cannot grow, and it spreads very fast. If not controlled, then we will no longer have pasture for our animals.

“We appeal to the county government to come to our aid even if it means hiring a few of us to uproot the plant,” he said.

Researchers are currently studying the plant as locals are urged to uproot and burn the weed as a temporary measure.

Kajiado Central is the most affected area, with statistics from the county government indicating the weed has occupied at least 45 per cent of pasture land.

County Agriculture Executive Moses ole Narok said the county government planned to spend more than Sh10 million to help pastoralists uproot the weed.

Mr Narok noted that the best way to wipe out the weed was to uproot it continuously for three years, or cut its flowers, which carries the seeds, to stop any further spread.

“We are working on a programme to hire youths and women to uproot the weed,” he said.

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