Former Speaker Ole Kaparo wants herders allowed to graze animals in Mt Kenya for free

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe issues title deeds to residents of Lekiji village

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe issues title deeds to residents of Lekiji village in Laikipia North Sub-County on July 14, 2022. During the event former National Assembly Speaker Francis Ole Kaparo urged President Kenyatta to allow herders to graze their animals in Mt Kenya Forest free of charge.

Photo credit: Mwangi Ndirangu I Nation Media Group

Leaders in Laikipia North want President Uhuru Kenyatta to allow herders to graze their livestock in the Mt Kenya forest for free.

Led by former National Assembly Speaker Francis Ole Kaparo, the leaders said many pastoralists had lost their cattle to the ravaging drought and were desperately trying to save the remaining herds.

“Due to the drought that has hit our region, we have appealed to the President to instruct Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to waive the grazing charges and allow the affected herders to graze in the forest as long as they will not destroy the young tree seedlings,” said Mr Kaparo.

Mr Kaparo and Laikipia North MP Sarah Lekorere had accompanied Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to Nanyuki on Thursday when the latter issued title deeds to locals.

“All our cattle are in the forest and the only way to save them is to have the grazing charges waived. Please take that message to President Kenyatta,” Ms Lekorere told Mr Kagwe.

The KFS charges Sh116 to graze one cow for a month and an additional Sh30 that is channelled to the Community Forest Association (CFA).

Mt Kenya West CFA chairman Kariuki Mugo welcomed the plea but demanded that if the charges are waived, locals should also be considered.

“If this favour is to be granted by the Head of State, it should not be discriminatory but should apply across all communities. Locals are never allowed to graze in the forest for free and anyone who dares has their cow impounded by KFS and a heavy penalty is imposed,” Mr Kariuki said.

Hundreds of cattle have been driven to the Mt Kenya forest in the last few months to escape the biting drought, some coming from as far away as Samburu County. Thousands of others have succumbed to the adverse effects of drought.

The monthly report for June from the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) paints a grim future for the livestock sector in Laikipia, unless urgent interventions are made.

“The drought situation recorded since March has turned severe in some parts of the county (especially parts of Laikipia North and Central affected by extreme vegetation deficit). These areas need urgent intervention to stem loss of livelihoods,” the NDMA’s June drought early warning bulletin says.

Available pasture supporting sheep and goats is expected to last less than a month in Laikipia North and that in June several cases of livestock deaths were observed in Mukogodo East, Mukogodo West, Sosian, Salama and Segera wards in grazing areas and along migratory routes.

In its May report, the NDMA said that more than 14,000 animals (cows, sheep and goats) had died since the beginning of the year, a situation attributed to failed rainfall.

Last month, the Ministry of Interior announced a livestock offtake programme in Laikipia County, but it was yet to start and there are fears that by the time it kicks off, no animals will be available for the government to purchase.