Drought-hit herders suffer as livestock offtake project delayed

Emaciated animals moving along the Doldol-Nanyuki Road on their way to Mt Kenya forest in search of pasture in this photo taken on June 18, 2022.

Photo credit: Mwangi Ndirangu I Nation Media Group

Drought-stricken pastoralists in Laikipia North will have to wait longer for the government to start buying their emaciated livestock.

The government livestock offtake programme was announced last month by Laikipia County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri and seeks to buy 1,260 cows, slaughter them and give the meat to hunger-stricken families as relief food.

More than 15,000 families in the county are facing starvation following a prolonged drought that has affected livestock and crop production.

To address the food shortage, the government is distributing relief food and implementing cash transfer programmes for the elderly and vulnerable groups.

The pastoralists, whose economic lifeline is livestock rearing, have in the past few months lost their herds to drought, with reports from National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) putting the figure of dead animals in the first months of the year in Laikipia County alone at more than 14,000.

Herders in the parched region have now resorted to feeding their animals with burnt stems of succulent cactus with the hope that by the time the livestock offtake programme starts, some of their cattle will still be alive.

“I wish this offtake programme started earlier. By the time they come to buy the animals, they might just find carcasses or the cows will be very emaciated to be slaughtered for human food,” Mr Eric Kasana, a Laikipia North community leader, told the Nation by phone.

But on Friday, Mr Kanyiri told the Nation that the offtake programme was at the preliminary stage of planning. He could not provide a date when it would start.

“This project will be implemented jointly with the national government, Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) and the Kenya Red Cross Society. Currently we are in the planning stage, which involves sensitisation and identifying those to benefit from this initiative,” he said.

He explained that Kenya Red Cross Society would be the lead agency and the national government’s role would mainly be to identify and mobilise the beneficiaries.

Mr Kanyiri said the international relief agency was on the ground and would distribute relief food to 1,000 families in Laikipia North this weekend.

“The Kenya Red Cross is targeting some 5,000 households across the county but will start the relief food distribution exercise this weekend targeting some 1,000 households,” he said.

He added that more government food aid would be delivered to Laikipia County.

He revealed that the government would distribute rice and beans to food-insecure counties every month.


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