Thursday, January 20, 2011

Alternative Fodder

As a result of prolonged drought linked to climate changes, communities in Mwingi District have now turned to modified alternative fodder for their livestock feeds. Mwingi is an Arid Semi Arid Land (ASAL) area found in lower Eastern Province, it covers a total of six Districts, which are Mwingi Central, Mwingi East, Mwingi West, Kyuso, Tseikuru and Mumoni. Although the area is dry most times of the year, the economic potential is high and cuts across all the sectors. This includes ventures in agricultural activities and trading in quite a number of goods and services.
The climate of the District is generally hot and dry for the greater part of the year. The maximum mean annual temperature ranges between 260 C and 340 C whereas the minimum mean annual temperature ranges between 140 C and 220 C. This translates into an
average annual temperature of 240 C. The District experiences long stretches of dry and hot seasons. Farmers depend on March-August rains and November- December rains.
The area has experienced a one and a half year prolonged drought due to the failure of December 2008 and March 2009 rains.
All forests and crops have dried up as well as the grass and what remains are dry rivers, skeleton of a forest and plain land.
Kyuso District depends on livestock as an economic activity. Last year most cattle died due to hunger and only a few heads survived the drought. Those surviving were thin and weak and vulnerable to diseases and even death. For lack of food, they turned to feeding on plastics, leather shoes and polythene papers.
The Ministry of Agriculture supplied very little relief grass to a few communities that was not enough. The grass distributed was dry that the animals could not feed on without water. The Livestock Agricultural o$ cers were left with no option but to advise the community to feed the animals on anything that has water and is green, so long as they survive.
They gathered into groups to discuss how they can feed their livestock to avoid the deaths. They identifield trees that store water in their roots and stems as a drought coping mechanism, and decided to use them during drought as an alternative livestock feeds.

Livestock alternative feeds
Root tubers ‘Kithunzu’

These are root tubers of a ‘Thurnbegia Guekeana’ tree under the group of climbers. It’s very common in forests and it climbs high on the trees. It has thread like stem and rarely has leaves especially during dry season. Its root tuber is as big as a cassava, with white " esh and is very
juicy. The tubers have a lot of water and cows that feeds on it consumes very little water. It can also be stored for sometime without loosing its water content. It’s tasteless and gum like and the inne flesh has starch content reducing the body weakness in cattle. They are readily available in most areas in Kyuso District.
The farmers have decided that when the rains come, they will plant the tubers for use incase of another drought situation. The root of one plant can grow several plants through propagation. To feed the animals, the roots are uprooted from the forest, washed, and cut into small pieces using a panga. The nutritive value of root tubers has never been established. However, the Kyuso people have used it as a coping strategy over a long period of time without knowing its e! ects. However, It was realised that when goats take too much of it during pregnancy they abort.

Acacia pods ‘Ngaa’ and kales
The Acacia Tree adapts to life in arid land areas. Over many years, the leaves of the acacia have changed to suit the environment in which they thrive.
The leaves are tough and somewhat rubbery. This is because they have to protect themselves against the harsh heat, and the unpredictable amount of rainfall. This particular species of tree has also adapted the colour of its leaves. The leaves of the Acacia are dark green in colour to a medium, or dark brown. The colouring of the leaves prevents them from being burnt, or scorched by the incredibly hot sun. Ripe fruit pods burst open, releasing the seeds, which are dispersed by animals eating the pods.
Kyuso people collect the pods and feed them to the animals.

Acacia galpinii is one of the trees that can survive hot and dry conditions, which is often preferred. It provides dappled shade on hot summer days, making it an ideal tree for planting on a lawn where some sun can penetrate. It has waxy leaves to cut down water loss and long tap roots to reach moisture underground. It is a large tree with luxuriant, light green foliage, making it ideal for a big garden, avenue or park. It is also valued by farmers.

Acacia galpinii is a deciduous tree, losing its leaves during dry season. It is fastgrowing and can reach 25-30 m. Creamy to light yellow " owers appear during the growing season (September-October). Reddish to purplish brown pods ripen during February-March.

Dry grass ‘Nyeki Nyumu’ and dry
Dry grass and leaves are also some of the alternative feeds. This grass is imported from other areas and stored for animal’s consumption. Farmers have stored some of the grass for more than two years. They cut grass and store it at an airy place for it to dry up without rotting. Most people store it on top of a tree, house roof or on a raised ground. After drying the grass, its tied up in bales and stored for use. The Ministry of Agriculture supplies some of the dry grass as relief food.
Leaves are collected from the forest. Sometimes animals are taken to the forest to feed on the leaf litters by themselves.

The ‘Thurnbegia Guekeana’ tree which produces the ‘Kithunzu’ root tuber. The problem with dry grass and leaves is that, they increase thirst when consumed by the animals and yet there’s no water for consumption. In cases where there is water, the animals end up consuming a lot of water leading to death. Most carcases found at the riverbanks died because of consuming a lot of water after feeding on dry leaves from forests.
Dry grass is not nutritious since all nutrients disappear after drying. They are only used to sustain the animals.

Pawpaw stem ‘Mivavai’

Pawpaw is one of the drought resistant fruits. Kenya Forestry Research Institute discovered that fruits like pawpaw, mangoes and oranges can do very well in semi arid lands. Mangoes and pawpaw’s survived the drought. Despite the fact that they did not have fruits, their trees
remained green throughout the drought period.
Pawpaw tree stalk and branches are green and soft. They have a lot of water fluids. Their stalk and branches are good for animals’ consumption. They have nutrients especially vitamins since the tree remains green throughout the season. The pawpaw branches and stalk are cut into pieces and fed to the animals. The stalk is soft but tasteless.


Mr. Fednand Mwengi of Mivukoni location, Kyuso District, has released his animals to his Malia Volkensii farm of more than five hundred trees. He claims that although the trees are valuable, he will feel better if some of his animals survive the drought.
“The ‘Mikau’ tree will dry up immediately it rains, but I will plant more afresh. I was forced to feed the animals on the bark of the trees because my animals were dying and I had no option. I am remaining with only two cows and 8 goats out of 20 cows and 40 goats that I had before the
drought. “It’s so sad” he says.

Despite all these, the animals are still dying. Some of them die due to the abrupt change of nutrition, infections caused by low body immunity and others from thirst.
The people are also insecure consuming meat from Eastern Markets in fear of infections that may lead to death ofhuman as well. Animal food is never enough and no one knows when the drought will end. There are claims that the taste of meat from Eastern Kenya has changed. It used to be the best but is now tasteless and
sticky. With all those alternative feeds, no food comes close to the green grass that is

Climate change e! ects are getting worse everyday. We may experience more intensive droughts and " oods but the Kyuso community with help of ALIN is trying to put in place strategies to help them cope with such situations in future. They are now planning to plant more alternative fodder in preparations of such situations. The government of Kenya should as well chip in by incorporating climate change impacts into vision 2030
to reduce poverty.

Mr. Kisinga Musya of Kakunike area in Kyuso District cuts the pawpaw stalk into pieces, mixes it with some vegetables and feeds it to his cow. He also picks acacia seeds, dries them up and
feeds them to his cow together with kales.
Melia volkensii ‘Mikau
This is a valuable tree for semi arid areas. It’s the most drought resistant tree. Has an e! ective mechanism for accumulating water to all tissues for use in times of extreme water stress. The plant is deeply rooted and exhibits a good degree of resistance to attack by common insects. It is also good for firewood, timber, medicine, fodder, bee forage, shade, and mulch and soil
conservation. It’s intercropped with food crops in arid land areas with no adverse effect on the yield.
The animals are released to the Melia Volkensii farm to feed on the bark of the tree.