FODDER NEEDED

Livestock graze on hyacinth as Baringo crocodiles wait

Rift lakes overflowing, herders lack pasture so animals feed on weed, suffer hunger, disease, attacks.

In Summary

• Risk crocodiles and hippos to graze their livestock around the shores of flooded lakes.

• Blame dangerous situation on drought, pasture crisis, appeal to government to supply them with fodder.

Herders brave crocodiles and hippos to graze their livestock along the muddy shores of Lake Baringo on Wednesday, February 17.
DANGEROUS PASTURE: Herders brave crocodiles and hippos to graze their livestock along the muddy shores of Lake Baringo on Wednesday, February 17.
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO

Drought and a pasture crisis have forced herders to risk crocodiles and hippos to graze their livestock on water hyacinth around swampy, flooded Lake Baringo.

They are losing animals to hunger, disease and wildlife attacks.

Residents – already the victims of frequent bandit attacks and cattle rustling - now drive their animals through muddy shores while shouting to scare away the beasts.

“We have no choice but to take the risk because all our land is dry and without pasture for livestock," Sintaan resident Bernard Ole Lelebo said on Wednesday.

The worst-hit areas are Salabani, Ng'ambo, Meisori, Kampi ya Samaki, Sintaan, Longewan, Kiserian, Rugus, Mukutani and Loruk.

Livestock also feed on overgrown, noxious mathenge weed near lakes Baringo, Bogoria and 94.

Ole Lelebo said mathenge weed damages the teeth of cows, goats, sheep and donkeys.

Like his fellow herders, he says he wakes up every morning around 10am to go out shouting and whistling to scare off hippos and crocodiles basking around the lake so his animals can graze.

A huge crocodile basks along the shores of Lake Baringo on Monday.
BASKING: A huge crocodile basks along the shores of Lake Baringo on Monday.
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO

In extreme cases, he said, the cows are forced to go deep inside the swollen lakes to feed on the massively overgrown water hyacinth weed.

“In Loruk, we face the same risks by swimming in the lake to harvest and pick the weeds so we can feed our animals at the shore or at home," Haron Cheruich said.

Apart from risking attack by wildlife, livestock are also bitten by tsetse flies and face water-borne diseases like lumpy skin, foot and mouth and East Coast fever. 

The farmers are urging the government to supply fodder and hay bales to feed their livestock during the dry spell.

“We are experiencing problems, especially before the onset of rains,"  Salabani resident and pasture expert Francis Parkolwa said.

County agriculture and livestock executive Thomas Ole’Nongonop admitted the situation is bad but says the county has no money for animal feed.

“We can only vaccinate animals to protect them against disease," he said.

He warned residents against taking animals deeper into lakes to avoid attacks by crocodiles and hippos.

(Edited by V. Graham)

Herders brave crocodiles and hippos to graze their livestock along the muddy shores of Lake Baringo on Wednesda, February 17..
FODDER NEEDED: Herders brave crocodiles and hippos to graze their livestock along the muddy shores of Lake Baringo on Wednesda, February 17..
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO