For decades, residents of Marigat sub-county in Baringo County would receive a number of visitors, ranging from the Head of State to other dignitaries, who came for the famous goat auction.
The event, which was started in 1986 and presided by President Daniel arap Moi, would raise money from the sale and use it to pay school fees for needy school-going children from arid and semi-arid regions.
After Moi retired in 2002, the market collapsed but was later revived in 2013.
At the auction, which took place every December 24, the cost of goats kept rising. By 2018, a goat sold at Sh12,000, with a farmer getting Sh10,000 after deduction of the transport and county levies. Farmers also used part of the proceeds to pay for National Health Insurance Fund.
At least 2,500 goats would be sold annually.
In 2019, for instance, 2,000 goats were sold, and 2,600 in 2018. Sh20 million was raised from the sales in 2019.
But things have since changed. For the second year in a row, the goat auction will not be conducted, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Baringo County Chief Officer Trade Moses Lokidor told The Standard that the pandemic is still an issue and they wish not to gamble.
“Bringing people together is still an issue because of Covid-19,” said Lokidor.
Paul Lotudo, a farmer, has been a beneficiary of the auction. He would take 30 goats to the market and at the end of the day, the money he received from the sale would be used to pay school fees for his nine children.
Lotudo said everyone in the villages was assured of splendid Christmas because locals had money. However, with the collapse of the project, Christmas will pass with little pomp.
“We would take our goats and sell them at high prices. The money I got would help me pay school fees for my nine children and save some for daily use,” Lotudo said.
He said the initiative was good, but now they are suffering after the county failed to conduct the auction.
“As for now, we are watching our livestock die as a result of drought. Herders have fled the area in search of greener pastures. They would have sold the animals instead,” he said.
He said middlemen are taking advantage of the failed market to purchase the livestock at a lower price.
The agitated Lotudo refuted claims that Covid-19 was a barrier to the auction. He instead blamed the county government for failing incorporate the even in their planning.
John Lomarin, another farmer, said he had 50 goats, which he would wish to sell.
Lomarin said he would sell the goats to any willing buyer.
He attributed the failed auction to a lack of leadership and failure to plan.
Bartabwa MCA Reuben Chepsongol, who is the master auctioneer, said that the process was fun and the money they got from the sale would not only help parents raise school fees but also boost the economy of the county.
Chepsongol regretted that farmers are now languishing in poverty due to lack of market for their livestock, which in turn they would get food after the sale.
“The economy has now gone down, we used to benefit as a county from the sale. Hoteliers and other small businesses like honey producers would also benefit from the visitors who came for the auction,” he said.
He blamed it all on the pandemic, adding that the restrictions put in place by the government could not allow gatherings.