Livestock traders and farmers in the county have defended Governor Charity Ngilu for acquiring trucks to ferry animals and farm produce to the market.
The traders said they had petitioned the administration to help them acquire means of getting their livestock to markets to protect them from losses associated with trekking long distances.
Senator Enoch Wambua has opposed the project, arguing, livestock can’t be given the “luxury” of riding to markets. He said the governor should first ensure services are improved for livestock owners in all public hospitals.
However, the traders counter that Kitui produces high quality beef, whose value is lost due to inefficient access to markets with animals losing weight and others dying on the way. Kitui Livestock Traders Association chairman Hillary Makola says, the trucks will save farmers and traders millions of shillings.
“This is simple logic. If a cow weighing 120 kilos, is subjected to walking a distance of 80 kilometres in three days from one market to another, without feeding or drinking, it losses a whopping 20 kilos of meat, which is a direct loss to us,” he says.
The trader from Kanyangi area said they approached Ms Ngilu in 2018 and had their concerns adopted in the County Integrated Development Plan as a special programme under the agriculture department.
“Our proposals were debated and approved by the county assembly, then factored into this year’s budget. So how does the acquisition of trucks become wrong priority for Kitui?” Mr Makola posed.
Association secretary Musyoka Ngunga concurred, saying, it’s farmers who best understand the challenges of getting their livestock to the market.
He urged politicians to appreciate these challenges before rushing to criticise the governor.
“Where was Senator Wambua when our proposals were subjected to public participation, budgeted for, debated and approved by MCAs?” Mr Ngunga posed.
He said Kitui livestock traders now have a chance to access foreign beef markets because the quality of beef will be guaranteed through efficient transport.
Deputy Governor Wathe Nzau, a trained veterinarian, said an animal trekking long distance accumulates a lot of lactic acid in its body.
He added: “Research has shown that the lactic acid generated as a result of animals walking long distances without feeding makes the meat rot faster.”
The five trucks, which were delivered by Isuzu East Africa on Monday, cost the county government Sh60 million, which, according to experts, is just the weekly cumulative losses incurred by farmers.
Dr Wathe said that movement of livestock along dusty roads is also discouraged because it’s a major way through which livestock diseases are spread.