Saitoti’s ex-bodyguard loses 28 cows in one day
A herder at Murtot village in Kajiado South sub-county is counting losses after losing 28 cows to armyworms amid a devastating drought that has killed countless livestock in Kajiado County.
Mr Samuel Topoika, 50, a retired police officer who served as the late Interior Minister George Saitoti's trusted bodyguard for 10 years, watched helplessly as his animals fell unconscious and died one after another.
Each animal would have fetched him Sh60,000 in the market making him a cool Sh1.7 million.
Devastated, Mr Topoika told the Nation he was shocked when his herdsman raised the alarm from the grazing fields.
Most herders are feeding their animals green maize stovers from the Loitoktok agricultural belt common for irrigation farming.
"I was alerted by my herder when the first three animals died. I rushed there but we could do nothing to save the animals," he said.
Mr Topoika suspected the animals had eaten green maize stovers infested with armyworms.
He told Nation the dead animals were among his 35 animals that had survived the drought.
"Before the drought, I had at least 100 cows. Most of the animals have succumbed to drought. I’m now left with nine cows. I have a family to take care of. This is devastating," he added.
Mr Topoika is not alone in this mishap, with dozens of herders in Kajiado having lost hundreds of animals in a similar fashion. They now want the veterinary department to enlighten herders on how to identify plants infested by armyworms to avert deaths of cattle.
As the drought continues to ravage the vast Kajiado County, most herders have moved to neighbouring counties in search of pasture but mass animal deaths have been reported after they ate grass infested by armyworms.
According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) data, more than 400,000 families are facing starvation and more than one million animals have died in Kajiado County.
The country has endured three severe droughts in the past decade: 2010-2011, 2016-2017, and 2020-2022, which have affected Arid and Semi-Arid lands (Asal) counties.
The 2020-22 drought has been the most severe and the longest in recent years.
In addition, there has been inadequate or no rain at all in some parts of the country in the past four years.