Saturday, December 5, 2009

Impacts of Climate Change on Livestock in kyuso

By John Njue Njiru

For several years, Kyuso framers have endured the pain of looking for pasture. Due to prolonged drought, the only place they can get pasture for their livestock is Mumoni hills which is approximately 12 kilometres from Kyuso.

This year the problem has worsened since the grass that used to be found around Mumoni and Matingani hills is no longer there.

The animals here are surviving on root tubers which are so scarce and expensive for the drought stricken community.

As the climate of this area is getting hotter, the increasing temperatures have several effects which include change in amount and distribution of precipitations. Due to climate change the rainfall patterns have changed and become unpredictable.

There is physical evidence that the reduction in livestock has been caused by lack of rainfall which is an effect of climate change. Human activities such as deforestation, charcoal burning and harvesting has contributed much to this change

Kyuso pastoralists have been migrating with their livestock to other areas with sufficient pasture which include Kenya-Somalia boarder, Tseikuru, Tana River but now the pasture is no more. Most people have taken their animals’ homes to depend to the root tuber bought from the local market.

Mr William Musya is one of the farmers who have taken up the business of selling root tubers. He wakes up at the crack of dawn to search for the tubers but he only manages to get half a wheelbarrow in a day. The tubers go for Ksh. 200 per wheelbarrow. Because of the predicted El-nino rains, Mr. Musya has already collected grass seeds which he plans to plant when the rains come.

The Survival Strategy:

People are using different mechanisms to adapt to the dry spell in this area. Farmers are collecting dry leaves and food residues which they then give to the livestock as feed. Another strategy which the farmers have initiated is the use of the cactus tree to feed livestock. For a long time the people of kyuso believed that the cactus tree would be poisonous to the livestock. However, it is one of the few plants which are withstanding the drought and therefore the residents have taken this as an alternative to make sure that their livestock survive the prolonged drought.

The stem of the cactus tree is believed to store water; therefore the plant provides both water and food to the livestock. Feeding starts by cutting the cactus stem, removing the tinny thorns which could be harmful to the animal. The stem is then sliced into small pieces which are chewable by the animal.

According to Mrs. Rose Kieti a resident of kyuso, the first feeding has a side effect. This is due to the fact that cactus is believed to have a medicinal value hence during the firsts introduction of the food to a certain animal there is severe diarrhoea which is believed to de-worm the animal. From the second feeding onwards, the animal does not diarrhoea. At first, the animals did not like the cactus but due to lack of other source of pasture, they are now feeding on it.

The residents have found this strategy very helpful and they are now searching for the cactus seedlings so that they can plant on their farms. Cactus do not require a lot of water to grow and therefore can thrive well in this area.

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