According to Interpol, Garissa town is reportedly the safest town in East and Central Africa. The pastoralist town added yet another feather in its cap for having the biggest livestock market in East and Central Africa.
The 5.38-hectare market which is as old as Garissa town started off as a meeting point for barter traders before gradually developing into the renowned livestock market. The market receives livestock from Kenya and other neighbouring countries like Somalia and Djibouti.
Among the animals paraded for sale include cattle, camels, goats and donkeys. Of these, the cattle are the fastest moving commodity thus the huge market is generally referred to as 'Soko la Ng'ombe'.
Wednesday is the official market day of the week. By eight o'clock in the morning, the market is fully packed and is a buzz of activity with people from all walks of life trying to haggle for a fair price.
Osman Dubat, 70, from Mogadishu is one of them. His greatest intent this particular Wednesday is to buy more cattle for his ranches. When we meet, he is in deep negotiations with Nkaiseri Ole Tipis from Kajiado Central. "I have been doing this for the last 20 years, I always come and buy the cows at a lower price before selling them at higher one. I am a butcher so after I buy them, I fatten them at my ranches then slaughter them for sale."
Another determined trader Ibrahim Farah from Djibouti admits that he had been camping in Garissa four days prior the market day to offload his 300 head of cattle. "With the ongoing drought which is being experienced in some parts our country, I saw no need to continue keeping this number of animals only to lose them through drought. I decided to bring them to this market because in Djibouti we don't have a big livestock market like this one."
During the high season, over 2,000 head of cattle gets traded off at the market. This number makes the city council Sh350, 000 in market fees. "For each donkey and every head of cattle we charge Sh160, while for camels its Sh300 and Sh40 per goat and sheep. This money we collect helps us run our business as a council thus we are able to improve our services to the people of Garissa," revealed Garissa Town Clerk Erastus Karani.
The town clerk however says that the council still faces its fair share of challenges including neighbouring communities trying to encroach the market land. Through the Kenya Municipal Programme, the council is now making plans to put up a perimeter wall around the market to remedy this problem. "We also intend to put up a shed for the traders and extra toilets to cater for the thousand plus people we admit. The water troughs also need to be replaced as they are worn out."
According to another government official David Cheruiyot who serves as the Garissa District Livestock officer, an abattoir needs to be set up. "We have a big number of weak animals that die in the market. The construction of this abattoir will go a long way to help create another source of income for these animal owners because currently when the animals die, they get disposed off."
Post taken verbatim from Nairobi Star