Drought is a major problem in Northern Kenya attributed to either total failure or rainfall below expected levels. Garissa, one of the counties in Northern Kenya was severely affected with the drought of 2008/9 and currently experiencing dry period following the failure of short rains of October ? November 2010.The meteorological department also predicts high depressed rains fall for the County in the expected long rains of March ? April 2011. Livestock owners are therefore faced with acute shortage of water and inadequate pasture which will weaken further livestock body conditions leading to low production in milk and meat.
The livestock and particularly cattle will not fetch good prices in market therefore compromising the purchasing powers of livestock owners. Access to fodder crop currently under irrigation along Tana River can save the situation. Some small scale farmers from the County have embraced the practice and are already practicing crop farming despite challenges of inadequate knowledge on the concept of fodder alongside unavailability of fodder seeds. Even when the seeds and tools are available, many farmers do not know how to plant, converse and manage the fodder.
CARE with funding from OFDA/ USAID is working with eight fodder farmers in Garissa County to build the resilience of the community against effects of drought. Already 320 small scale farmers have benefitted through provision of fodder seeds (Sudan grass and Boma Rodes), four days technical training on fodder production, conservation, marketing, facilitating farmers? field days and mentoring. The initiative has created awareness among farmers on importance of fodder production and increased demand for fodder seeds. The project is working in partnership with the district agricultural and livestock production officers from Garissa and Fafi districts. One such beneficiary of the interventions is Fidhow farmers in Nanighi location with 45 (25 female and 20 male) members who are currently growing fodder, bananas, paw paw and mango trees.
Since the farmers started planting in January 2011, they have realized two harvests of 40 bales. The cost of one bale in Garissa is Kshs. 250 (UD$3), though group members have decided not to sale the fodder produced in order to feed their animals, especially the milking herds which could otherwise have moved far away in search of pasture and water. The movement of milking herds denies the family access to milk and contribute to increased malnutrition levels, child morbidity and mortality among children under-five years. Worse situation is that the livestock would have died. Ahmed 37 years old and father of three children is the chairperson of Fidhow says: I am feeding my animal with the fodder we planted and harvested, they were very weak, not able to move to look for pasture before. Now they have regained energy and have increased milk production. In addition he says, the young bull can fetch for a better price in the market which was not the case two weeks ago. He further reported s that the group plans to expand the land under fodder to increase production.
Farmers are putting their new knowledge and skills to work and improving their households' food security in the process. He concludes, fodder growing under irrigation is the solution to the acute pasture shortage.