Alarm as over 200,000 cattle migrate to Lamu from neighbouring counties

Lamu County Deputy Governor Abdulhakim Aboud (centre), Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia (left) and Lamu West MP Stanley Muthama (right), during a press briefing outside the county commissioner's offices at Mokowe. They said more than 100,000 people in Lamu are in dire need of food as drought ravages the region.

Leaders and security agencies in Lamu have raised concern over the increasing migration of herders and their livestock from neighbouring counties to the county in search of water and pasture.

Speaking shortly after convening a drought crisis meeting in Lamu on Tuesday, County Commissioner Irungu Macharia, Deputy Governor Abdulhakim Aboud and Lamu West MP Stanley Muthama expressed frustrations that more than 200,000 head of cattle, mostly from Tana River and Garissa are in Lamu.

Mr Macharia said the situation has led to overstretching of grazing corridors in the area in recent times.

The continued influx of livestock from other counties to Lamu poses a security concern, he said, adding that pastoralist-farmer and even herder-to-herder conflicts have already begun to be witnessed in some parts of the county since the onset of the drought season.

The county commissioner said the presence of non-local herders and their livestock has also contributed to increased human-wildlife conflict in Lamu as the herders graze their huge number of livestock in forests, destroying the wildlife’s natural habitat.

He called for an urgent inter-county crisis meeting between Lamu, Tana River and Garissa county officials to find a solution to the situation.

“The rate at which herders and livestock from other counties are migrating to Lamu daily is alarming. The surge has depleted the pasture that was available. The water sources have also dried up. We’re doing a rapid assessment on the same, but we need concerted efforts from all to manage this,” said Mr Macharia.

He noted that the population of livestock from Tana River and Garissa counties is almost the population of residents in Lamu, putting stress on the limited resources.

“That’s why the security team is already working closely with elders in Lamu, Tana River and Garissa in a move aimed at guiding the guest herders through the villages to ensure peaceful passage,” said Mr Macharia.

Mr Aboud noted that the pasture coverage in Lamu was not in its optimum state as the region did not get enough rainfall. This year, Lamu received just 83mm of rainfall, way below the long-term average of 284mm.

Mr Aboud expressed fears that conflicts between farmers and herders might get out of control in Lamu if the drought persists.

Search of pasture and water

He advised herders to find a market early for their livestock instead of waiting until their animals start dying before selling them.

“With the drought already in place, our herders should consider selling off part of their livestock instead of concentrating on migrating to other places in search of pasture and water. Every place is now affected by the drought,” said Mr Aboud.

Mr Muthama asked the government to ensure Lamu is listed back as among counties adversely affected by drought, and one that needs urgent attention and intervention.

Learners are likely to be affected if relief food and water is not distributed to Lamu households, he added.

A recent report by the County Steering Group on Food Security indicates that more than 50 percent of households in Lamu lack food, with at least Sh100 million urgently required to address the effects of drought.

“I am surprised to hear that Lamu isn’t on the list of counties that need urgent intervention to address drought effects. It’s clear that our people here are suffering from drought effects. We need Lamu to be included on that list and assisted urgently,” said Mr Muthama.

Lamu County National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) Coordinator Mohamed Dahir said the influx of migrating families and livestock from neighbouring counties has exerted pressure on an already overstretched environment.

Mr Dahir said livestock deaths attributed to drought and outbreaks of diseases such as lumpy skin disease, Newcastle disease and trypanosomiasis are likely to occur in Lamu if the continued migration is not controlled.

“There is an urgent need for stockpiling and provision of livestock supplementary feeds during this drought season. We need to also intensify disease surveillance and mass livestock vaccination and treatment across Lamu,” said Mr Dahir.

Areas witnessing livestock influx, mostly cows, goats and sheep in Lamu include Pangani, Bar’goni, Koreni, Mkunumbi, Hindi and Witu.​