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Farmers turn to dry feeds to cope with harsh drought


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By Silas Apollo

As farmers continue to bear the effects of the harsh drought ravaging the country, they have increasingly turned to dry feed to feed their livestock even as the drought and the skyrocketing prices of food and other commodities continue to burden many businesses and residents in the area.

Many farmers say that they are now worried that with the current crisis, the drought may reverse gains made in the agricultural sector, which is the economic mainstay for most residents in the region.

The government estimates that about 3.5 million Kenyans are currently facing hunger which has been attributed to the lack of rain in at least four rainy seasons in the country.

With the skyrocketing food prices, many families have had to dig deeper into their pockets to afford at least one meal a day, which experts believe could continue should the rains fail in the next couple of months.

The Kenya Meteorological department has said that the dry season is primarily due to global warming, which has affected weather patterns. 

Other factors, such as global inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine, have also been attributed to the rise in the cost of food such as wheat, while those of other commodities such as cooking gas, bread, milk, maize flour, eggs, and even vegetables have also been increasing over the last couple of months.

And in the North Rift region, farmer cooperative societies said that their members are now turning to dry feeds to cushion their livestock.

Lelgina Cooperative Society is among groups supplying hay to farmers with a bale going at Sh1,200, up from Sh800 due to fodder shortages.

“Milk production has drastically dropped due to lack of feed, making it hard for farmers to maintain their animals,” said Mr. Jackson Kemboi, an official of the society.

Dealers in animal feed manufacturers decry the shortage of yellow maize despite a window by the government to import the commodity.

Cereal farmers will likely delay this season’s planting exercise following weather reports that rain will come in mid-March.

In its latest weather report, the met department estimates that the much-awaited rains may only begin in March, meaning that many parts of the country could remain dry for a much longer.

The delayed rains may also mean that the planting season for most farmers could be delayed by a couple of weeks or even months. 

The National Steering Committee on Drought Response has warned that the prevailing drought could continue for one more year, with the committee’s chairman Peter Ndegwa adding the ongoing short rains might not sustain sufficient food production.  

According to government data, the drought has affected at least 23 counties in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs). 

An estimated 24 percent of families in the ASAL region are currently facing high levels of acute food insecurity with about 2.7 million people in the Crisis Phase and another 785,000 people in the Emergency state, according to the ASAL Humanitarian Network (AHN). 

The agency argues that the figure represents about a 10 percent increase from the same period in 2021, when 2.1 million people were said to be in an emergency and a crisis state.

The drought has also affected crop production, with another 2.4 million livestock said to have been in the country due to the situation.

Consequently, the drought has also resulted in conflict among communities as the search for pasture and even water sometimes leads to confrontations over limited access to the available resources.


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