Kenya: Disease threatens pastoralist livelihoods

ISIOLO, 30 September 2008 (IRIN) - Wario Golicha was working as a long-distance truck driver until he retired in 2006 to keep livestock in the eastern district of Isiolo.

With his pension, Golicha bought 100 goats to supply his family with milk as well as an income; the herd had doubled by April. However, an outbreak of the viral livestock disease, Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), threatens to wipe out his entire herd.

"I have lost more than 74 goats; it is very painful after working all these years," Golicha, a father of three, told IRIN.

He said he would have lost more animals had he not decided to move the herd from Kom, a common grazing area along the Isiolo border with the neighbouring district of Samburu.

The PPR outbreak has affected 18 districts across the country, leading to losses estimated at one billion shillings (US$14.3 million), according to an assessment by the livestock development ministry.

The livelihoods of thousands of pastoralists who rely on the sale of livestock products have been adversely affected after the imposition of a quarantine to stem the spread of the disease, and a livestock marketing ban is in force.

The disease has also increased food insecurity, a local resident, Mohamed Guffu, told IRIN.

PPR was first reported in the north-western district of Turkana in 2006 and has so far caused the deaths of at least 2.7 million sheep and goats. Symptoms include fever, discharges from the eyes and nose and diarrhoea.

On 22 September the government launched a one-month vaccination campaign targeting 15 million sheep and goats. The campaign will cover all PPR-affected and high-risk areas in Eastern, Rift Valley and Northeastern provinces, as well as parts of the Coast.

The vaccine provides protection for about three years for small ruminants.

Once the vaccination exercise, targeting goats and sheep older than three months, is complete, the ban on livestock movement and sales in the affected areas will be lifted, the Livestock Development Minister Mohamed Kuti said.

"Livestock traders are agitating for the resumption of trade, but the order will remain in force until all targeted animals are vaccinated and certified to be safe," Kuti said.

Awareness campaigns to encourage local community participation as well as improve the surveillance of fresh outbreaks are also ongoing.

"We have spent many sleepless nights ... because of this disease," Golicha said.