West Pokot County residents grappling with effects of drought following failed rains have benefited from the government livestock off-take programme meant to alleviate losses to herders in drier areas amid high cost of living.
The livestock from the farmers was bought, slaughtered and then the meat distributed to residents free of charge.
The programme is carried in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) areas by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) and the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC).
Speaking during the launch of the off-take programme in Chesta village in Lomut ward, West Pokot County Commissioner (CC) Apollo Okello, said the programme targets to lessen the risk of animal deaths and help cushion farmers against the ravaging drought.
“The government is buying livestock from residents to reduce losses. The livestock are slaughtered and the meat distributed to residents free of charge to vulnerable households,” said Okello.
The CC noted that 1310 weak cattle were bought at a cost of Sh15, 000 each from affected farmers within the region facing starvation worsened by erratic rains that affected crop and pasture production.
“This exercise runs concurrently in 13 wards in the county hit by dry weather. About 13,000 households will benefit from the programme where a cow after slaughter will be shared among ten households and one sheep or a goat to feed four families who are hit hard by drought,” he explained.
According Okello, approximately 2110 households across the county are on the brink of hunger and starvation.
He said the region has experienced crop failure for two consecutive seasons and farmers have experienced multiple losses from the scorching sun and pests that have complicated their livelihoods.
The county boss mentioned that the same programme has been undertaken in 23 other counties in the country.
He lauded the residents for accepting to sell their livestock under the off-take programme noting that they stand to benefit by saving the money instead of watching their livestock die because of drought.
Okello said the government is set to disburse 510 and 1200 bags of rice and beans respectively to each sub county in the region as relief food to hunger stricken residents.
He said farmers would be paid by KRCS through mobile money transfer within 24 hours of livestock purchase.
The CC allayed fears that there were residents being compelled to migrate to Uganda in search of pasture and water due to drought.
“The cordial relationship between the Government of Uganda and Kenya has enabled free movement of residents from either side and not just because of effects of drought,” he posed.
The wards benefiting from the programme include Masol, Lomut, Lower Sekker, Endough, Lower Kasei, Kiwawa, Alale, Kapchok, Kodich, Suam, Lower Riwo, Lower Chepareria and Lower Batei.
Moses Ngorianyang, a resident of Lomut ward, has appealed to the government to set up irrigation schemes to curb food shortage in the areas noting how the off-take programme is short-lived hence the need for a long-term measure to mitigate against drought.
Veronica Kolichei said there has been a total crop failure and many residents have run short of food stock thus the off-take programme should have been accompanied by distribution of relief food especially maize flour.
By Richard Muhambe and Anthony Melly