FRW news in brief

    | August 5, 2013

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    Kenya: Alarm in South Rift as poisonous plant kills livestock

    Livestock farmers in Kenya’s southern Rift Valley have been warned over the fatal effects of a poisonous plant. Hundreds of animals have died in the region after eating green cestrum, known locally as chesamisiet.

    The hardy plant is spreading fast. It vigorously outcompetes and kills other vegetation in less than a year. The plant is very difficult to eliminate using herbicides, and dairy farmers have been advised to uproot the plants from their farms.

    Green cestrum is toxic to cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, poultry and humans. Signs of livestock poisoning include diarrhea, walking with a stagger, and loss of appetite. Affected animals will lie on the ground before coma or convulsions lead to death.

    There have been calls for veterinarians to collaborate with universities to discover an antidote to the plant’s toxins.

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    Uganda: Dry spell sends milk prices up

    Milk prices have risen by over 60 per cent in most parts of Uganda. Dairy farmers blame the situation on water shortages caused by a long period without rain. The drought has affected pastures, while supplementary feeds like maize bran have tripled in price.

    Consumers have been left with two options: cut their milk consumption or pay the increasing prices set by supermarkets and other retailers.

    Jolly Zaribwende is the executive director of Uganda’s Dairy Development Authority. He says the dry spell, expected to continue until September, has cut production by about 35%. Transport costs per litre have gone up as production has dropped.

    Mr. Zaribwende explains that fresh pastures and water are essential for dairy cows. Other feeds can be used only to supplement the grass and water in their diet. He said, “However, there is hope for rains in the next month … production will get back to normal.”

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    Guinea-Bissau: Hunger warning as cashew price dips

    A slump in cashew nut prices in Guinea-Bissau has left nearly half the population worried about food. Many families are skipping meals or selling livestock in order to survive until the next harvest in September.

    Cashews account for 90 per cent of Guinea-Bissau’s exports and 45 percent of the country’s economic output. But cashew prices have dropped this year by 63 per cent. The slump is due to several factors, including a depressed international price and reduced demand from Guinea-Bissau’s main market, India. Internal political complications, linked to the 2012 coup, are also affecting the price.

    Over the years, farmers have planted huge cashew orchards. Increasingly, they rely on the crop, and have drastically reduced cereal production.

    Ussama Osman is the World Food Programme country director in Guinea-Bissau. He says that the current crisis is forcing some farmers to sell their yet-to-be-harvested food crops cheaply in order to buy staples.

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