We'll not move our livestock from ranches, Laikipia herders say

Herder Lain Punta during the interview on a ranch in Laikipia County. [PHOTO: KIBATA KIHU/STANDARD]

Lain Punta has lost count of the months he has been away from home. He left his wife and children at his Lonyiek home in Ol Moran, Laikipia County, when he went in search of pasture and water for his cattle.

His animals, which he says are as important as his family, have been to many ranches in the county, albeit illegally. Mr Punta says he will do everything to ensure that they survive the drought.

The herder says he has walked many kilometres to graze his livestock since he left his family. He is however accompanied by one of his sons, who appears to be about 10 years old.

The boy has a club and a set of shuka to keep him warm and protect him from the strong winds blowing across the Laikipia plateau.

Punta's son was a Standard Two pupil at Lonyiek Primary School before he was withdrawn several months ago to help his father take care of the family's only source of livelihood.

At time of the interview, Punta and his son are walking towards Rumuruti, about 20km from where his animals were grazing.

"He is a grown-up. He can take care of the livestock and track lost cattle," Punta, a member of the Pokot community, says of his son.

He says they started grazing at Segera Ranch, approximately over 100km away, before crossing to Karai and Mugie ranches.

His animals, which he estimates at 100, are now grazing at Meja Ranch, along the Rumuruti-Maralal road.

"We are not out to cause conflict with ranchers or the authorities. We only want to save our livestock."

Under normal circumstances, members of the Pokot and Samburu communities don't see eye to eye and conflicts have characterised their relationship for ages. The conflicts, mainly revolving around cattle rustling, have led to death on both sides.


But today, Pokots and Samburus are working together to save their livestock from drought.

"The police have been chasing us from the ranches but we hide in the bushes and continue grazing our animals when they leave. If they take away our livestock, we track them down and take them back to the ranches. We will never let our livestock die while we watch," Punta says.

He represents many pastoralists from Laikipia, Isiolo, Baringo and Marsabit counties whose animals have been roaming the ranches in search of pasture and water.

The animals have left a trail of destruction on the private ranches. Two weeks ago, a herder was shot dead when they clashed with police at Suyian Ranch.

The officers were trying to restrain the herders from driving cattle onto a ranch when a confrontation ensued. In retaliation, the herders destroyed fences around several ranches.

They also burnt down the main lodge at the facility after stealing property of unknown value.

Richard Vigne, the executive director of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, says Mugie and Suyian ranches are the hardest hit by the invasions.

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Laikipia Kifuko