Drought stricken livestock dying in their hundreds

Herders at Ilbisel, Kajiado, put weak animals in a truck to move to different area in search of pasture and water. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Pastoralists at Marereni, Magarini Sub-county are counting losses after hundreds of their livestock starved to death. The pastoralists, who moved there from Tana River County three months ago want government to compensate them or reintroduce livestock off-take programme to cushion them from losses.

Osman Gobu said he moved with his employer’s 30 cattle, but lost 20. “We moved from Hola three months ago when pasture diminished. We settled at Kurawa, in Tana Delta for a month, but pasture there diminished and animals started dying,” he said.

Gobu and friends moved to Kasangani in Magarini Sub-county, where they stayed for a week. Pasture diminished and they lost cattle. “We moved to Kanagoni, where we found no pasture, forcing us to come to Marereni, where we lost even more,” he said.

Abdulrahman Hassan owned 100 cows, but 70 have died. He said he had to transport the remaining ones home despite the drought situation there being worse than in Marereni. “Our boys have been telling us that our cattle are dying and there is no grazing land left, forcing them to seek permission to graze in people’s compounds. We have even leased some of the compounds, but there is no pasture,” he said.

He said it was better to lose all his animals at home than away. “We have hired trucks to ferry the animals with the assistance of Senator Juma Wario. We have suffered extreme losses. We came with more than 200 head of cattle, but we are going back with less than 50 emaciated ones that we are not sure will survive,” he said.

The emaciated animals cannot fetch good prices when sold. “On normal days we sell a cow at Sh70,000, but the same now fetches less than Sh5,000,” he said.

He is calling on the government to cushion them from the loss suffered. “The government should compensate us or buy them (livestock) off at a favourable price so that we can use the money to restock when the normal climate resumes. The Tana River County government should also look at our plight,” he said.

Kulmio Take, a resident of Magarini Sub-county, said the local security committee allowed herders from Tana River to cross over to Kilifi with their animals, but the drought situation persisted, leading to the faster diminishing of grazing fields. “This is the worst drought to ever happen in Tana River County and Magarini Sub-county, we welcomed the cattle from Tana River County but the situation is getting worse,” he said.

Mr Wario urged government and Kenya Wildlife Service to open the Tsavo East National Park. “We promise to coexist well with wild animals. I urge government to help these people because there is no market for emaciated animals. Government should buy them,” he said.

Kilifi CEC for devolution and disaster management Gabriel Katana said least 54,000 cows were at risk of starvation. “This situation might continue to May next year,” he said.