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Government sounds drought alarm

NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 5 – The Livestock Ministry says it requires Sh1.5 billion to assist farmers in drought stricken areas with water and feeds for their animals.

The money is expected to be used to set up interventions such as provision of water through water tankering, an off take program, distribution of relief animal feeds and livestock health care services.

Livestock Minister Mohamed Kuti said on Wednesday dry weather conditions in pastoral regions were exposing the animals to dangerous diseases and lack of feed that could lead to deaths.

“The country experienced poor rainfall performance between October and December 2010. These adverse conditions have had negative impact on the livestock sector,” the minister said.

He indicated that pasture and water in the affected regions would not last beyond January 20 hence the urgency of setting up contingency masseurs.

The ministry is currently in negotiations with the Treasury and has already written to the Office of the President as well as the Crisis Management Centre at the Prime Minister’s office.

The number of livestock at risk stands at six million cattle, 16 million sheep and goats and 150,000 camels.

The alert by the minister follows hot on the heels of the 2009 drought where thousands of cattle died.

To avoid a repeat of the massive deaths during the period, Mr Kuti urged livestock farmers to sell their animals early enough to avoid incurring losses.

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“This is not the time to hold onto dying herds. You are better off selling them when they still have flesh on their bodies and having a little money in the pocket,” Mr Kuti said.

He however said the government would be ready to initiate an off-take program for affected farmers.

He also challenged the farmers to diversify their sources of livelihood urging them to take up agriculture as an alternative.

The mass movement of farmers in search of pasture and water is also raising concern over the spread of livestock diseases.

Mr Kuti said congregation of livestock in pasturing and watering areas would exert stress to the livestock leading to the enhanced outbreak and spread of diseases such as foot and mouth, anthrax and goat pox, as well as exposing the animals to parasites.

Mr Kuti revealed the ministry had already drafted a Cabinet memo for a re-stocking program to ensure that the farmers\’ stocks are not depleted.

“We will try as a government to initiate re-stocking programs which we are already discussing at the top level,” he said.

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