The decision by the State to include beef in the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) list, alongside maize grain, rice and powdered milk is a godsend to those counties prone to drought like Narok and Kajiado.
In the past, herders have watched helplessly as severe drought –that leads to loss of huge swathes of pasture and water –decimates their livestock, thus throwing them into destitution, forcing the government to distribute famine relief to the affected residents.
This problem will, thankfully, now belong to the past as according the Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai, the State will henceforth buy lean animals from pastoralists for making corned beef besides mopping up excess milk to be turned into milk powder to be preserved as strategic food reserve.
The Ministry of Agriculture will spend Sh2 billion to boost and diversify its emergency food stockpile by considering other dietary options. The notion is to ensure famine relief consists of a complete meal not just maize grains. Pastoralists stand to gain a great deal from this initiative.
Although this is seen in certain quarters as interfering with the market forces, it nevertheless, will cushion herders from huge losses during severe drought.Sh200 million will be spent to purchase140,000 tonnes of rice from farmers.
The State is also set to buy 4 million bags of maize to address the high prices of maize meal currently retailing at Sh135 per 2 kilogramme packet.
At any one time, the strategic maize reserve is supposed hold 3 million bags or an equivalent of this in hard cash.
It is gratifying to note Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) has been roped in and told how procurement will be done to ensure only lean animals are purchased.
It behooves Narok and Kajiado county governments and other stakeholders to fully support this noble gesture in the interest of pastoralists, as listing of beef as a strategic food reserve is a boon the herders who depend on livestock for their livelihood.