Government is preparing to provide hay storage and balers in livestock farming zones as it seeks to boost commercialisation and sustainability of the business.
These are parts of a raft of measures to be taken by the Ministry of Livestock with a view to improve economic contribution of the sector from the estimated 12 per cent of the GDP (employing half the farm labour) and play catch-up with countries like Botswana.
The southern Africa country, already toured by officials, has some of the best stocks in the world with designated disease-free zones which allow them to export to the strictly regulated European Union market under the preferential African Caribbean and Pacific Trade Arrangement.
Kenya on the other hand lost its quota to Zimbabwe during the 1980s mismanagement of the sector—coinciding with a huge slash in agriculture spend as Bretton Woods implemented the discredited structural adjustment programmes—which saw, amongst other mishaps, the collapse of Kenya Meat Commission (KMC).
Ironically, Botswana Meat Commission was modeled on the KMC after the country’s livestock officers were trained in Kenya.
PS Kenneth Lusaka told Business Daily that as a short-term measure, his ministry was providing napier grass seeds to 22 arid and semi-arid districts in the country. This is part of an effort to reseed pastures depleted during the current drought which has decimated a good part of the stock. Information provided by the weatherman shows the short rains could commence in October.
While these zones where pasture matures fast, are seasonally endowed with rich pasture, it swiftly wastes away. The ministry has recognised the need to harvest and store in bales, a process that could yield much animal feed and prevent conflict-prone migration of herds. Besides grass, the ministry wants to bale wheat chaff.
It will use ADC and its own holding grounds for storage. Livestock Ministry has holding grounds at the Coast, Mogotio in Baringo, Laikipia, Tana River, Samburu and Machakos amongst other locations. The ministry has also started a Sh400 million enterprise fund for future restocking.
However, Treasury funding takes long to be felt on the ground. Therefore the government has directed the Agriculture Finance Corporation to set aside a Sh427 million revolving fund for ranchers. The ministry says when the entrepreneurs repay the loans this means the next borrower can automatically borrow without resorting to Treasury.
Another hurdle has been the predominance of Muslims in the livestock industry. The religion abhors financing including charging and payment of interest. The ministry has been talking to First Community, a Shariah-compliant bank, to address the matter. Other financial institutions have also been roped in to finance the general sector while even insurers have come up with sector-specific products particularly addressing cyclical drought.
Race against time
The ministry is racing against time to build export slaughterhouses near airports in Garissa, Isiolo (planned) and Wajir. The big slaughterhouses will not only reduce movement of livestock, they will limit the commercial and health risk.
“Our vision is to open up the export market for farmers especially in the Middle Eastern markets of Iran and Egypt. Right now we cannot export to Europe Union before we implement the disease-free zones which may not be done immediately,” said Mr Lusaka.
The government is currently taking a more holistic look at the industry as it seeks to lift the dwellers of the agriculturally ‘unproductive’ area as per the Strategic Plan covering 2008-12. Besides beef, it is looking at camel milk and leather industry as it strives to add value to the industry.
But before that the government has to deal with the drought emergency.
The ministry will provide Sh200 million for slaughtering weak animals on site in a move to minimise loss from death of animals. Sh80 million will be spent on drugs for vaccinating and preventing spread of disease.