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1.5m livestock die on biting drought

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Emaciated animals hit by drought in Kenya in 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A total of 1.5 million livestock died in three months to March on the back of a biting drought that has affected millions of Kenyans, putting the lives of pastoralists who rely on animals at stake.

The Agriculture Ministry says farmers lost 253,000 cattle, 1.21 million sheep/goats and 43 camels as the drought witnessed since last October continues to devastate households.

The most affected regions are arid and semi-arid lands where livestock is their economic mainstay.

The ministry has recommended slaughtering off-take for weak animals, promoting fodder and pasture establishment and conservation to avert more deaths.

The State notes that the ongoing drought has depleted fodder in eight counties of Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Isiolo and Tana River.

“Livestock body condition for cattle is poor to very poor. For sheep and goats is fair to poor, camel body conditions is fair in the seven counties,” said the ministry in a March report on food security.

The State said last month at least 2.8 million Kenyans in 23 counties urgently needed relief food.

Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna said this was a rise from the 2.1 million starving people last September.

However, a report by Oxfam International released recently showed that the number of people affected could be as high as 3.1 million.

Among the affected counties are Baringo, Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Turkana, Wajir, Kilifi, Lamu, Nyeri, West Pokot, Laikipia and Garissa, which are in the alarming drought stage.

The situation is deteriorating in Makueni, Taita Taveta and Tana River, while for Embu, Kajiado and Narok, the situation is stable. Meru and Tharaka Nithi are in the alert stage, while the situation is improving in Kitui and Kwale counties.

In the latest review, Kenya Meteorological Department says the distribution for the remainder of the season will be generally poor, meaning that a lot of farmers will continue to fill the hit of drought.

An earlier prediction by the weatherman had indicated that the country was set to receive adequate rains ahead of the main planting season in March, a move that saw the farmers carry out dry planting in anticipation of good rains.

The KMD had said the long rains seasons, which was forecasted to start in the third or fourth week of next month will be adequate for the entire planting season.

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