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Climate change to hit livestock farmers hard

George Kebaso @Morarak

Livestock farmers are staring at a Sh70 billion loss in the next 12 to 20 years due to frequent droughts, a new study warns.

A survey by Kenya Market Trust, covering 21 counties in Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs), shows that Kenya is likely to lose about 1.7 million cows, an equivalent of 52 per cent of the total cattle population in the regions.

Mohamed Said, a research consultant with the organisation said the losses are equal to about 20 per cent of the money used to build the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

The government spentabout Sh340 billion on SGR line from Mombasa to Nairobi recently. “This loss is only on cattle without factoring in other animals like sheep, goats and camels,” he said.

According to the study titled Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies (PRISE), Turkana County is the most hit hard in cattle loss at 59.7 per cent followed by Machakos at 58.5; Garissa 56.9; Kitui 43.3, Kajiado 41.7, Marsabit 29.7, West Pokot 23.3 and Samburu 23.2 per cent.

Said noted that the changes in temperatures that have continued to be warmer are attributed to this problem. “Some of the changes will range from, losing between 50 and 100 per cent of the vegetation, and productivity of cattle in the counties will be low,” he said of the research findings.

The number of livestock that will be impacted will be higher in Garissa at 235,000, Wajir 192,000, Tana River 187,000, Turkana 152,000, Kitui 123,000, Isiolo 121,000, Kilifi 102,000, Kwale 98,000, Marsabit 97,000, Kajiado 74,000 and Baringo 72,000.

The 2016 study confirms the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning that ASAL regions would be more susceptible to periods of drought and erratic rainfall.

IPCC said these hotspots already suffer from limited access to markets, low productivity, water shortages and insufficient infrastructure. The study further shows that 15 out of 21 counties have recorded a decline in rainfall for the last few years.

Only six including Narok, Baringo, Laikipia, Turkana, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet have recorded a slight increase in rainfall.

However, all the 21 counties have reported an increase in temperature and in some of the counties, the increase has gone beyond 1.5 degrees, which is major concern and issue of discussion globally.

These counties are Turkana, West Pokot, Elyego Marakwet, Baringo, Laikipia and Narok. Said noted that due to the rainfall variability and temperatures there has been an increase in sheep and goat population by about 76.3 per cent, and 13.2 per cent increase in camels while the population of cattle has reduced by 25.2 per cent.

“Some of the counties that showed slight increase in cattle were Kilifi, Laikipia, Baringo, Taita Taveta, and Lamu. There was an increase in sheep and goats in all the 19 out of the 21 ASAL counties, with only Kwale and Elgeyo Marakwet showing negative trend,” Said noted.

He stated that this has a huge implication in the livestock market, adding: “With declining cattle, it means the country might have to import. At the moment we have cattle coming from Tanzania and Somalia to subsidise what we are losing in the country.

The study projected a further increase in temperatures in the next 10 to 20 years by 0.8 to 3.34 degrees. This, Said noted, will see some counties lose between 50 to 100 per cent of vegetation and productivity of cattle in the affected counties will be low.

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