NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 14 – Livestock farmers in vulnerable areas across the country are set to benefit from a program that seeks to enhance livestock production in Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs).
This follows the launch of a Sh414 million initiative which will be facilitated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and which will among other things ensure the availability of feedstock and the enhancement of livestock marketing.
“There are persistent high cereal prices and a severe decline in livestock prices. FAO is also cognisant of the fact that majority of the population in Kenyan ASALs are dependent on livestock keeping. It is these facts have led to the development of this project,” said FAO Representative in Kenya Castro Camarada on Wednesday.
“Fodder will be an important source of income substituting the need to sell livestock- which are key livelihood assets- in order to purchase staple cereals such as maize and sorghum,” he a added.
Observing that the country’s food situation remained precarious, Mr Camarada said the program would focus on knowledge transfer and animal health, which were key constraints to poverty alleviation within the dairy sector.
Part of the project also involved the importation of 800,000 doses of Rift Valley Fever vaccine in order to support a vaccination campaign.
The project which is funded by the European Commission brings together a consortium of partners at different stages including FH Kenya, VSF Belgium, the Directorate of Livestock Production and the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute.
“Through this initiative we are taking on the responsibility for restoring the livelihoods of people whose lives have been devastated by the combined effects of drought and soaring food prices,” the official added.
Speaking at the project’s signing ceremony, Livestock Minister Mohamed Kuti said the facility would also empower livestock keepers to face future challenges in livestock production and also cushion them against skyrocketing food prices.
“The enhanced food facility is therefore in line with the government’s Agriculture Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) and forms a sound basis through which the full scale government program can be initiated,” he said.
The implementation of the program of this project would also enable the country to exploit the full potential in the sector, which contributes about 40 percent of the agricultural Gross Domestic Product and about 50 percent of the agricultural labour force.
Meanwhile, Mr Kuti has announced that the second phase of the livestock offtake program will commence soon.
The Minister said they are waiting to receive Sh200 million from Treasury before they could begin purchasing cattle from farmers in drought stricken areas for processing into corned beef.
“We intend to buy 15,000 or so animals but that is still a drop in the ocean because a lot of animals are still dying out there,” he regretted.
He said a similar number of cattle were bought in the first phase of the exercise which unfortunately benefited the middlemen.
However, Mr Kuti expressed fears that despite the government’s initiative to assist farmers, nearly 60 to 70 percent of their livestock would be lost by the time the current drought is over.