el nino
With predictions for the 2015-2016 El Nino, Baringo County Government, World Animal Protection, the University of Nairobi and the Directorate of Veterinary services is advising farmers in flood prone areas to be prepared in advance if they do not want to lose their main source of livelihood through drowning, displacement and disease.

To prevent the tragic repeat of the 2006/7 floods, the organizations have combined educational messages, mass vaccination campaigns and technical advice so as to prevent the distressing effects on farmers and their livestock.

In Baringo County, massive vaccination targeting 300, 000 livestock against Rift Valley Fever (RVF), a viral disease affecting animals and humans. Vaccination of an estimated 4,000 dogs against rabies is ongoing.

The 2006/7 El Nino compelled the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Government of Kenya’s Department of Veterinary Services to identity RVF as a major threat that, together with drowning and starvation, consumed more than four billion shillings in the livestock sector.

From the lessons learnt, the bodies are giving information and services on veterinary care and immunity building through vitamins, de-worming and treatment to cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, camels and dogs.

But what is most important is the need to sharing flooding preparedness tips to the farmers of Kenya.

Judy Kimaru, World Animal Protection’s Disaster Operations Manager for Africa says “by taking action now, we can avoid the repeat of the disaster of 2006/7. The floods this year are predicted to be even worse…but building from the lessons we’ve learned and recognizing the vital role played by livestock in the health and wellbeing of local communities, we aim to prevent this from happening again”.

“It is better, economically, as we know that every dollar spent in prevention saves an average of seven dollars. It is better from a public health view and from an ethical, humane standpoint,” Kimaru continues to say.

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This message necessitates imparting of preparedness tips before, during and after the floods, as animals, just like human beings needs protection for they feel pain, stress and can become ill.

Her advice is, “before floods, all farmers should determine the potential risks of flooding in their areas and identify potential hazards. They should turn off electricity to their wells and seal the well caps tightly to prevent surface water from entering it.

Further, ensure that animal shelters are repaired, dig channels and dykes to drain away water from homes and animal shelters, raise poultry houses above flood waters and install flood- resistant materials.

All farmers should also be ready to turn off electrical power, gas and water supplies as well purchase extra fuel just in case of long power disruptions.

In preparation for making evacuation plans, all farmers are advised to ensure that their animals have identifications markings such as ear tags and also to make a list of farm properties such as machinery, crops, and other farm inputs and also secure copies of insurance policies and other farm and personal documents.

To avoid poisoning and pollution, remove all farm chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and store them away from people and animals.

If your farm located on water ways and plains, look for alternative higher ground and move animals days before the flooding and note; they should not wait until the rains start! Also consider selling mature stock such as poultry.

During the actual floods, they need to follow evacuation instructions from authorities and media but first, ensure the safety of family and follow evacuation routes for people and animals. If animals cannot be evacuated, set them free, untie them, open all closures and cages as animals have good instincts and can escape on their own.

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Remove metals such as bells and other holsters and collars that may attract lightning strikes or trap animals to objects when trying to escape. They should not attempt to force animals to cross water above the knees and should not drive trucks, motorcycles cars, horses, donkeys, and camels through floods. After the floods, return home only after the authorities declare it safe.

Before entering, assess the following: damage to buildings, equipment, livestock and crops; areas of contaminated water; identify sharp objects, fallen power lines and if power lines are down, they should avoid stepping on any standing water.

They need to wear protective clothing such as rubber gumboots and gloves when clearing mud and silts from buildings and ensure that all windows are open and doors to help in airing and drying of the indoors. She shares that the buildings need to be safe and if not, do necessary repairs before move in self and animals.

Farmers are advised not to feed animals with wet or contaminated feeds and not water them from open water pans as these may be contaminated.

Finally, they are asked to use the list of animals and properties written before the floods to compare the inventory and note crop and animal losses, damaged machinery and buildings for insurance or emergency assistance purposes.

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