The Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council has initiated a massive free livestock spraying exercise aimed at eradicating tsetse flies in Lamu county.
At least 80,000 head of cattle is targeted in the exercise that started at the weekend.
Pastoralists and other livestock keepers in the county grappled with the tsetse fly problem and this is the first major attempt at tackling it.
The organisation launched free mass dipping and spraying targeting areas that are worst hit by the tsetse fly menace, including Koreni, Mkunumbi, Pangani, Pandanguo, Witu, Bar’goni, Hindi and Mpeketoni.
Lamu West is the worst affected owing to its proximity to bushes and forests in the region.
Kenttec board chairperson Robert Monda said tsetse flies are still endemic in 38 of the 47 counties in Kenya, Lamu included, with negative impacts on human and livestock health, wildlife, and tourism.
Notably, most of the affected areas are uncomfortably located closer to the Boni and Mambo Sasa forests.
Major pastureland is also located deep inside the forests, meaning livestock easily come into contact with the flies every time they venture inside to feed, putting them at a higher risk of developing trypanosomiasis.
The exercise also involves the revival of cattle dips, provision of acaricides and training of livestock farmers and the communities.
Monda said the flies cause trypanosomiasis and related diseases that affect both livestock and people. The organisation is also undertaking similar exercises in Kilifi and Tana River counties.
“Most livestock are grazed inside forests, which, unfortunately, expose them to the high population of tsetse flies, leaving them with diseases and ill-health. The government is keen to eradicate tsetse flies in Lamu, the Coast and Kenya as a whole,” Monda said.
He said Kenttec will continue to provide livestock farmers with the expertise and technical assistance to build capacity that will ensure the menace is effectively eradicated.
Kenttec North Coast regional coordinator Nicodemus Masila said the consistent spraying and dipping of livestock is one of the simplest vector control methods as it protects the animals from tsetse fly bites while equally reducing the population of the flies.
“The principle is to have the animals act as moving tsetse targets. The flies pick a lethal dose of the acaricides and die,” Musila said.
He expressed confidence that the interventions being put in place by the council will effectively enable the suppression of the tsetse fly population in Lamu and neighbouring counties.
Musila cited Faza island in Lamu East as a success story where the same technique was applied to eradicate tsetse flies and it worked.
“We used the same control technologies and now we no longer have the flies there. We are upbeat this will work too,” Musila said.
Lamu County Chief of Staff Mohamed Bute appealed to Kenttec to consider opening an independent tsetse fly and livestock disease control center in Lamu to effectively deal with similar issues affecting the sector.
Lamu hosts thousands of heads of livestock migrating from neighbouring counties to the region in search of pastures and water, especially during the ongoing drought season.
Currently, there is over 400,000 head of cattle from Tana River and Garissa counties in Lamu, making the county vulnerable to human and transboundary animal diseases.
“This makes it almost impossible to control or contain the tsetse fly menace. With an independent control centre, however, we can be able to tame diseases,” Bute said.