Taita farmers counting losses as drought kills hundreds of cows

Omar Aden Qassim stands in between carcasses of his dead livestock. [Standard]

Hundreds of livestock have died as a result of prolonged drought as climate change continues to take a heavy toll on Taita Taveta County and the country at large.

Taita is among the 23 counties classified as Arid and Semi-Arid Land (Asal) and in dire need of relief supplies.

Yesterday, desperate farmers said they had lost hope as their livestock continue to die every day due to severe drought that has led to diminishing pasture and water.

Farmers in Mwatate and Voi sub-counties are the most affected. They say they have lost animals worth millions of shillings.

One farmer, Mwandawiro Mbela, of Kishushe location said he had so far lost 162 cows worth Sh6.4 million, 13 goats worth Sh104,000 and eight sheep worth a similar amount.

Each cow goes for Sh40,000, he said.

Siku Ndungani, a farmer in Kasigau location, Voi Sub-county, has so far lost 12 cows and six calves in the Jogholo area.

“We are running out of stock as the little supplementary animal feeds distributed by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) have run out,” said Ndungani.

Damson Mwakoro from Jora village in Kasigau location has lost five cows.

“The drought has caused persistent water and pasture shortages. We are being forced to take our animals from Jogholo to Bungule village, which is over 20km away.

"Some of our weak animals die on the way as they are unable to reach the only watering point available now,” said Mwakoro yesterday.

Elsewhere, Kishagha Dio, a farmer at the Kivuko area, said lions had killed three of his cows.

“We have been left on our own to deal with the drought and the wildlife,” he said.

Last month, FAO representative in Kenya Carla Mucavi said they had heeded the government’s call for an emergency response to save lives and livelihoods of the affected population.

Mucavi said they had distributed cattle feed, assorted livestock drugs and vaccines, 200 silage bags for kitchen gardens, and assorted vegetables to those affected.

“We are responding to the most immediate needs of the most vulnerable pastoral and agro-pastoral communities. This will be complemented with an unconditional cash transfer to the same households,” she said. Taita Agriculture Executive Davis Mwangoma said 20 per cent of the population was in dire need of relief supplies.

He said the county administration was closely working with the national government and other development partners to ensure no resident dies of hunger.

National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) County Coordinator Gabriel Mbogho said some lowland areas were on red alert where a shortage of water and pasture was at an alarming level.

He said the famine had been compounded by frequent wildlife invasion. Mbogho said the worst-hit areas were Kasigau, Maungu, Mbololo, Kishushe, Alia, Mwakitau and Mata locations.