Tension as hundreds of herders from Kajiado invade Gilgil, Naivasha farms

Animals grazing outside Ndabibi chief’s camp after they were driven there by a farmer whose crops were destroyed in the fields on October 13,2022. Many herders in search of pastures have migrated to Naivasha and Gilgil areas

Photo credit: Macharia Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Hundreds of herders have invaded some parts of Gilgil as a prolonged drought takes a toll on their animals.

Some of the shepherds have migrated from neighbouring Kajiado County, an area hit hard by the dry spell.

The animals are straying onto cultivated farms, causing conflict between herders and farmers.

“We have so many documented cases but those involved are opting for an out-of-court settlement,” said Gilgil sub-county Deputy Police Commander Henry Mbogo.

Ol Njorai acting Chief Parit Sululu confirmed that the number of herders grazing in the area had increased recently but downplayed claims of mounting tension.

“No conflicts have been brought to my attention. What I understand is that most of them are opting to settle the matters among themselves,” the administrator said.

But resident Rose Kamau said maize and pumpkins on her three-acre farm were destroyed by migrating animals.

“From the agricultural officers’ evaluation, I was supposed to be paid Sh510,000 but I am yet to receive a penny … I am counting losses,” Ms Kamau said.

Another farmer, Karanja Mbugua, said a majority of growers lease their land to desperate herders.

“We are in the harvesting season and some of the farmers are leasing out their farms to the herders,” he said.

But he painted a grim picture of the situation, saying some herders were selling their sheep and goats for as little as Sh1,000.

“A friend of mine bought several animals and the grazers are losing some of the animals to drought. An emaciated cow sells for as little as Sh2,000,” Mr Mbugua said.

Some community members provide water for the animals, he added.

A source told the Nation that some unscrupulous locals were leasing out farms without the consent of owners, complicating the situation. 

The government has started buying livestock from herders, with the animals slaughtered to feed starving residents under a livestock offtake programme.

Kajiado is one of the counties hit hard by drought, with animals dying in large numbers and herders migrating far afield in search of pastures.

In July, police in Gilgil flushed out herders who had invaded private farms, causing tension.

Hundreds of herders from Maralal and Laikipia had illegally driven their animals to the area in search of pastures.

But police and local administrators drove away the herders following an outcry from owners of large farms.