Shepherd communities in Lamu County are asking county officials to speak to ranch owners so they can graze their cattle on private land.
Almost all of the pasture in Lamu has been consumed by the drought and the growing numbers of animals migrating daily from Tana River and Garissa counties.
Speaking to journalists in Witu, Khalifa Hirbae, chairman of the Lamu branch of the Kenya Livestock Marketing Council and spokesman for the Witu Pastoralists Community, urged Governor Fahim Twaha to start talks with private ranchers.
Lamu has large tracts of land that are classified as ranches and are fenced off for protection and private development.
Some of the most notable are Amu, Koreni and Mkunumbi, Kibokoni, Nairobi and Bar’goni.
Mr. Hirbae said that instead of seeing their cattle die, they should be allowed to graze in the ranches, which he believes have enough vegetation to feed them for some time.
“Our animals die almost every day due to a lack of water and pasture. To curb the further death of farm animals, the county can force ranch owners to let herdsmen graze their animals there. We are suffering,” he said.
He also called on the county and state governments to offer financial assistance to ranchers suffering losses from the drought.
“We have more than 300 animals that have already starved to death from the drought. You can imagine a single place like Nagelle losing more than 100 cows. We need support to deal with the adverse effects of the drought,” he said.
Ali Suleiman from Chalaluma village supported the suggestion for shepherds to graze their animals on private land.
He said Lamu is struggling with limited pasture because competing animals come from neighboring counties.
He called on local and national officials to control the movements of non-local shepherds.
He also appealed for animal feed to be distributed during the drought.
“We have more than 300,000 cattle, mostly from the Tana River and Garissa, and that frustrates us. Non-local herders should be prevented from entering Lamu in search of water and pasture. All available pasture corridors here are exhausted,” said he
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Ali Abdi, a shepherd in Pangani, said the pastureland in Lamu is shrinking as invaders continue to occupy land without considering the needs of the shepherds.
He found that people moved to Lamu and established settlements in areas known as pastureland and cattle tracks.
He also stressed the need to have pastureland reclaimed.
“Aside from the drought, our pastures have also become scarce recently due to attacks and land grabbing. People have invaded our pastures and left us with nothing, ”he said.
Hassan Abdulrahman from Lumshi also said that willow was difficult to come by.
“We only have the bonus forest, where we can graze our cattle freely. But we are faced with the challenge of the tsetse flies in this forest. So we urge the ranch owners to have mercy on us and allow us to graze our animals on their land until the drought ends, “he said.