By George Munene
Through a Sh18 million grant from the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity, Dahir Haret, a farmer in arid Garissa County, has been able to diversify his income from livestock rearing to cultivating 40 acres of Boma Rhodes, Cenchrus Ciliaris, and Brachiaria grasses as well as 10 acres of fruit trees.
Chipping in Sh2.6 million of his money through a cost share plan, the 36-year-old from Fafi Sub-County has invested in the construction of a modern hay barn, installed a solar-powered water pump for irrigation, and procured a tractor with a trailer, and hay baler, plow rake, and mower.
During this dry spate, 500 households have depended on fodder from his farm to keep their livestock alive. He makes hay harvests every two to three months and sells each bale of hay between Sh360 and Sh479.
On his 120-acre family land, pastoralists are also allocated plots to harvest feed and carry it to their animals at a subsidised price. This helps conserve the energy their animals would have spent walking. This has increased herd survival compared to losses during previous droughts.
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According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Efforts, the current drought has left over 4.2 million people in dire need of food, and livestock deaths have surpassed 1.5 million.
The rains have not fallen for three seasons in Garissa County, a mostly arid area with desert-like terrain.
Because of the farm’s affordable and sustainable production, the county government and the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation use the farm as a model and demonstration site. It is also a fodder seed multiplication center supporting farmers interested in venturing into commercial fodder production.
Farmers in arid regions are realising the glaring gap in animal feed, especially during periods of drought. Dahir diversified into commercial fodder production to sell grass to pastoralists during drier periods as well as high-quality fodder seeds to sell to other farmers interested in starting fodder production.
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In 2014, he established Kamuthe Young Farmers, a self-help group and family farm, utilising a portion of their family land.
The small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) employs five full-time staff and contracts two labourers, depending on the workload.
The Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems (LMS) program is a USAID-funded program to create resilient, competitive, and inclusive livestock systems to reduce the prevalence and depth of poverty, household hunger, and chronic undernutrition in Northern Kenya.
The program is present in the five counties of Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo, Marsabit, and Turkana.