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Famine looms as rains fail in Kitui County

 KNA   Following failure of March-May rain season, most parts of Kitui County recorded total crop failure and famine is slowly encroaching.
Kitui County Executive Committee (CEC) member for agriculture, water and livestock. Emmanuel Kisangau, while speaking to KNA in his office warned of acute food shortage for the next five months. 
He lamented the total failure of recent March – May rainfall season in most parts of the county especially in Mwingi and Kitui South regions, adding that other regions received very low rainfall thus resulting to withering of crops before they matured. 
The County Agriculture Executive dispelled any hopes for pigeon peas harvest, adding there was even no expectations of yields for other drought resistance crops as the rainfall was too low for their production.
He however said that mitigation activities are already in force to ensure do not suffer much due to prolonged drought. 
“My Ministry has even set aside seeds banks for the farmers, to enable them to revive their hope come October-December rains hence create food security in the County,” Kisangau said.
“There are counties like Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia that have plenty of food and that can do surplus so, in case of plans, they can always supply to these other counties like Kitui and the rest who are facing the same condition as us,” Kisangau said.
Kisangau told KNA that the process of treating and vaccinating domestic animals across the County is currently ongoing, as it is feared their immunity may go down due to lack of pasture and water.
He also noted that training of farmers on pasture preservation to help them retain their stock even after the drought is also in progress.
The anticipated drought has prompted reaction from the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA). The drought management is jointly working with other sectors including livestock, water, agriculture, health and education in putting in place mitigation measures.
“Kitui County generally has 40 percent of waters reserved in all the reservoirs in the March-May rainy season, which is too little for sustenance throughout the long four-month drought ahead. For example, the Ngomeni Water Catchment Rock in Mwingi, the largest in East Africa which serves Ngomeni and Nguni wards has almost dried up, killing hopes of its dependents, with the next rains expected in the first week of November,”  Francis Komu, the County Director, National Drought Management Authority told KNA.
Talking to KNA in his office today, he insisted it is high time residents embraced proper storage methods for the food to cushion them through the long dry season with the little remaining harvest they managed from the previous October – December rainfall season. 
Migration of livestock from neighbouring counties into our county in search of pasture poses a mojor setback in mitigating the drought. 
The presence of Somali pastoralists has usually resulted in conflict in the Kitui-Somali border, as the pastoralists invade farmers’ farms causing destruction of their crops. 
This has adversely affected the security in the bordering areas of Tana River County, prompting the intervention of the National government.
“Since the pastoralists are not in our county, I advise farmers to practice hay stocking for them to have enough for their cattle before the current situation escalates. 
I also advise voluntary destocking to have a manageable stock. Our farmers should also deworm their cattle to counter any opportunistic diseases and maintain good health to sustain them when they feed little,” he added.
The Director cited Covid-19, deterrence in the efforts to address water scarcity in the County, as NGOs and other bodies who previously supported the move, have also been affected by the pandemic hence withdrawal.


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