KENYA: Cattle rustlers force farmers to sell livestock dirt cheap
Residents resort to selling animals at throwaway prices as rustling soars.
By Fred Kibor (STANDARD MEDIA) – Residents along the Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot border are selling their animals at throwaway prices for fear of theft by cattle rustlers. The farmers from Lelan and Kapyego wards in Marakwet East said disposing the animals would cushion them from more losses due to rampant insecurity.
A sheep, which was initially selling at Sh6, 000, is now going for a paltry Sh1, 000 while a cow that used to fetch Sh20, 000 is now being sold at Sh5,000. “Farmers no longer see the value to own a flock of sheep because when bandits raid the area, they sweep clean everything. During the weekend raid, we cumulatively lost over Sh21 million from the livestock stolen,” said Paul Kiptuga.
Mr Kiptuga said locals are desperate for a solution to the rampant insecurity. Farmers in Marakwet and West Pokot highlands keep merino sheep and dairy cows due to the area’s favourable climatic conditions and lush pasture. The emboldened raiders have now spread their attacks, initially staged in the semi-arid Kerio Valley, to the highlands.
Over the weekend in Kamelei and Kipsitona along the border of the two counties, over 3,000 merino sheep and 5,000 cattle were stolen by the bandits. “The region is volatile and majority of those disposing the animals are fleeing to safer areas. However, unscrupulous traders are buying the animals at pitiable low prices,” said Kiptuga. Ben Kosgei, another farmer, said he had since relocated and camped at Kapyego trading centre after losing 300 sheep in last weekend’s attack. “I disposed the remainder of the livestock after the attacks because I could not move away with them,” said Kosgei who sustained a gunshot wound in the attack.
Elgeyo Marakwet Agriculture Executive Shadrack Yatich said the county government could not regulate the selling prices of the animals to cushion farmers from losses because they were selling them on a willing buyer-willing seller basis. “We are appealing to farmers to desist from disposing off the livestock because there are ongoing efforts to restore peace. Elders from the two warring communities have held several meetings to seek truce,” said Mr Yatich. Tenderwa location Chief Abraham Chelanga said climatic conditions had also contributed to farmers disposing off their livestock in large quantities.