The government has called off the Sh7.9 million livestock-offtake programme in Taita-Taveta County after farmers reported adequate pasture and water for animals following heavy rains pounding the region.
The County Committee on Livestock Offtake programme said after rains came, hundreds of livestock farmers said the adverse conditions which would have forced them to sell their animals to the government had drastically changed.
Taita-Taveta County had set a target of buying 528 herds of cattle from farmers who were hardest-hit by ravaging drought.
County Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha disclosed only less than four percent of the targeted farmers showed interest in selling their animals.
Speaking in Mwatate during a meeting with Deputy County Commissioners (DCC) from Mwatate, Taveta and Wundanyi and other stakeholders, Ms Onyancha said the programme was intended to mitigate artisanal farmers against the severe effects of drought and cushion them from economic losses due to livestock deaths.
The animals were to be slaughtered and the meat distributed to families without food in that locality.
The government was buying a cow at Sh15, 000 while a goat or a sheep was going for Sh3,000.
However, with the coming of the rains, the farmers are no longer interested in selling.
“We have had very few farmers willing to sell their animals. They say the rains have come and there is a lot of pastures and water,” Ms Onyancha said.
No single farmer from the sub-counties of Voi and Wundanyi showed interest while only a few in Mwatate and Taveta showed marginal interest.
Apart from the pasture regeneration, most farmers explained that with the rains, the animal body condition had improved.
Large numbers of withered cows had started gaining significant weight. Others said the current market price was markedly higher than what the government was offering.
Mr James Mbala, a farmer in Mwatate, said the offtake programme was no longer tenable. He explained that with the pastures and rains, a young cow was now retailing at between Sh25, 000 to Sh40, 000. Goats and sheep were selling at between Sh5, 000 and Sh8, 000.
“Farmers would have sold if the drought persisted. With the rains, the urge is gone. The price being offered by government is lower than what we can find at the market,” he explained.
Mr Joram Oranga, Red Cross County Coordinator, said the unwillingness by farmers to sell was indicative that the worst of the drought for livestock farmers in the region was over. He added that some farmers were urging the government to peg the buying price of livestock on an animal’s weight.
However, the county commissioner said the programme was meant to insulate the farmers from suffering catastrophic losses because of drought.
“This was not a business programme to buy livestock for sale. It was meant to shield farmers from total loss and give them back the meat from animals they sold,” she said.
By Wagema Mwangi