Nairobi — Hundreds of pastoralists have invaded Mt Kenya Forest in search of water and pasture for their livestock, posing a threat to the water catchment area.
The Eastern provincial forest officer, C N Kimini and his Central Province counterpart, Ms Elizabeth Wambugu, said at least 10,000 cows, goats, sheep and camels were grazing in the forest.
Pastoralists from drought-ravaged areas of Dondoo, Ngarendare, Samburu, parts of Meru and Isiolo have invaded the forest.
"If the current grazing rate is not controlled, then the variety of trees and water catchment areas will be affected. The forest can only support about 5,000 livestock," said Kimini.
The officers were speaking after a tour of the forest. Efforts by Government officials to convince the herders to dispose off some of their livestock, through the Agricultural Development Corporation, were met with resistance. The herders instead want the Government to provide veterinary officers to treat their animals.
"I have lost 10 cows and several sheep. We are appealing to veterinary officers to come to our rescue before we lose more," said Subutha Sambo, a herder from Suguta Mar Mar in Samburu District.
The officers said herders had refused to pay grazing fees, thereby denying the Government revenue. There has also been hostility between residents and the pastoralists over claims that the herdsmen have been destroying water pipes to water their animals.
Duty waiver on food donations
And Foreign Affairs minister Raphael Tuju has said relief donations from foreign donors would not attract duty.
"All food donations will not attract any duties at the ports," he said.
He said plans were underway to ensure that relief donations were cleared as fast as possible. He said the ministry would ask for support to address famine both locally and internationally.
Tuju was speaking in Nairobi on Wednesday after receiving a Sh72,000 cheque from the Korean Embassy staff. The Korean ambassador to Kenya, Yum Ki-Syub, presented the cheque. Ki-Syub said Korea would formally respond to appeals for more donations later.
Tuju said the Government had received commitments to fight famine from countries such as the United Arab Emirates. He supported a move by Treasury to slash budgetary allocations for some ministries to respond to the ravaging famine, saying the decision was "rational".
He said his ministry would outline its relations with the international community.
Meanwhile, more than 90,000 people urgently need food in famine-hit parts of the North Rift region.
According to an assessment by the Anglican Church of Kenya's Development Awareness Programme, the most affected areas are West Pokot, Turkana and parts of the expansive Kerio Valley.
The head of the programme in Eldoret diocese, Reverend Maritim arap Rirei, said the assessment had established that 30,000 people in West Pokot District and 25,000 in Turkana District urgently require relief food to save them from starving.
Appeal for relief
Rirei cited Central, Kalokol and Kainuk areas of Turkana District as hardest hit.
"Our assessment has also established that some 15,000 people in Keiyo District and 20,000 in Marakwet require urgent food supplies," he said.
Save for these areas, other parts of the North Rift such as Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Nandi have enough stocks of food, particularly maize.
Special Programmes minister, John Munyes, last week flagged off 500 bags of maize donated by the Kenya Red Cross Society to famine victims in Turkana and West-Pokot and announced that the country required Sh28 billion to contain the current famine.
Rirei, while welcoming the food donation by KRCS, said more was needed.
"There should be enough food supplies to last hunger victims for long and not distribution of a few kilogrammes of maize that is wiped out after two or three days," he said.
Those affected by famine, he said, should also be provided with other essentials like medicine.
He said livestock was also dying and urged the Government to purchase the animals, as was the case with other parts of the country.
"We need the Government to respond faster," he said.
He said ACK was collecting food to distribute to famine victims in the North-Rift.