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Ruto visit highlights need for regional farming cooperation

Dr Beine (2nd L) guides Ruto (L) about Nshaara ranch as Tumwebaze (extreme R) and other officials look on

Dr Beine (2nd L) guides Ruto (L) about Nshaara ranch as Tumwebaze (extreme R) and other officials look on

Last week’s visit by Kenya Deputy President William Ruto to Nshaara government ranch may have caught many by surprise but the livestock enthusiast, who was on a first-hand mission to explore farming opportunities, left a positive mark on the sector, writes Ernest Jjingo.

Ruto owns one of the biggest farms in his country but just like any other commercial farmer, learning never stops since new
innovations prop up on a regular basis. Last week, he took time off his busy schedule to visit Uganda on an expedition to explore farming opportunities, among others.

Top on his agenda was to share and borrow ideas about the famed Ankole long-horned cattle, whose careful conservation in Uganda has boosted the country’s beef and dairy industries.

It is worth noting that whereas Kenya has a bigger livestock sub sector, Uganda’s is growing at a faster pace as indicated by the 63 per cent rise in dairy exports over the past three years, according to the Dairy Development Authority (DDA).

It is perhaps on this background that Ruto set out to pick tips on improving his farm as well as the Kenyan livestock sub sector.

On June 7, Frank Tumwebaze, the new minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), hosted Ruto at Nshaara government ranch in Kiruhura district. Nshaara, which has a capacity of 3,000 livestock units, is at the heart of the milk sheds of Masaka, Kiruhura, Bushenyi and Mbarara and its main mandate is to benefit farmers through provision of improved stock raised on the ranch.

Here, Dr Peter Beine, the executive director of National Animal Genetic Resources Center and Databank (NAGRC&DB) showed Ruto firsthand how the long-horned cattle is conserved to stay in tip-top shape as well as its cross-breeding with exotic breeds for increased milk and meat productivity.

Beine emphasized that the programme has immensely contributed to an increase in dairy and beef output in the country. During the tour, Tumwebaze also showed Ruto how the ministry is spearheading the cross-breeding of local indigenous goats with South African boar goats to improve meat productivity.

Since Nshaara is in the midst of Lake Kakyera and Lake Mburo national game park, Ruto took the opportunity to witness the stunning co-existence of agro-tourism and wildlife. In this borderline area between the ranch and the game park, wild animals such as zebras, impalas and buffaloes peacefully graze with cattle.

Cattle and zebras graze together at the borderline area between Nshaara ranch and Lake Mburo national park

Afterwards, Tumwebaze introduced Ruto to wildlife sport-hunting at the park. Sport-hunting refers to the regulated hunting of animals with special features like large horns and is partly aimed at controlling the number of wildlife.

Revenue from the programme is not taxed in order to remunerate the sub sector actors. On his part, Ruto commended the innovations at the ranch and emphasized the need for mechanization and industrialization of the sector to utilize the available resources.

“Uganda stands to get more from dairy and beef products if you improve the technology, especially the processing plants,” he said at the end of the tour.

Ruto also promised to invite MAAIF officials to Kenya to pick some tips on the livestock industry there.

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