Herding Cattle in the City Continues

Herding Cattle in the City Continues

By Eunice Nyiraneza
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First published: February 4, 2006

The love for beef is common in almost every family in Uganda but in Kampala city, it has been taken to another level with beef becoming the daily sauce for many a family. Abattoirs and butcheries are now a common business in many Kampala suburbs. Increasing as they are, the hunger for meat seems to increase double fold. Many business people have seen money in this thirst for beef and keep hordes of cattle in the city ready to kill them for beef to sell whenever adequate demand is ascertained.

Even in the countryside, many people describe Kampala as a place where they eat meat everyday. But this love for beef is likely to lead many Kampala residents in trouble, especially those consuming cattle bred on city garbage.

A veterinary doctor in Kampala, James Ramanza says that the productivity of city-bred animals is higher than those in the village.

Cattle in the city have a variety of feeds compared to those in the village which only feed on pasture. They feed on residues with all sorts of minerals like calcium which village cattle do not have access to, explains Dr. Ramanzi.

However, a veterinary specialist and animal husbandry expert, John Agaba has warned that products (beef and milk) from cattle bred on garbage and dirty water in the city and its suburbs are not suitable for human consumption.

Cattle bred in city could be dangerous

These animals are left to select their feeds. Though they get variety of minerals in the city especially from garbage bins, there are some which are not suitable for their bodies and cause long term effects, he says.

He says that the water these animals take from potholes for instance is contaminated with car fumes and other chemicals. In addition, all the feeds in the city are either polluted or contain elements harmful to the animal and consumers body.

Though these toxic substances do not have immediate effects on the cattle, they accumulate and lessen the life span of these animals.

The effects of these elements go down to have long term effects on the final consumer, explains Agaba citing skin allergies as one of the possible effects. He says that it is hard to convince the layman about these effects because they are long-term effects that do not appear apparent immediately. But how come the cattle continue to graze in the city?

Why do people herd cattle in the city?

With few people in Kampala city owning land and most of the land fragmented, the city is definitely no place for cattle herding, which requires vast consolidated land. We all know that the cattle need enough space to move around and have enough to eat without tampering with anyones property and dirtying the city with dung.

There are however more and more cattle that can be sighted loitering the streets of Kampala city by the day, congested as it is. Surprisingly, these cattle do not look starved! Whose animals are these anyway? What are they doing in the city and most of all, how do they manage to appear healthier than their herdsmen?

Take the miserable looking James Kandwanaho, a city herdsman. The tall, dark skinned 27-year old of Rwandese origin herds over 50 heads of cattle daily. He says the cattle belong to three different people in Kampala he refers to as mugaga, meaning boss because he does not know their real names.

Along with two other herdsmen, Kandwanaho herds the cattle in Najjanankumbi and Massajja, all Kampala suburbs off Entebbe Road. Each of these three herds cattle for different people in the city.

Many of the people talked to say they keep cattle in the city temporarily as they await to slaughter them. Depending on the number and season, this may take from a day to a month. However, one of the owners of these cattle says that she had no choice but to herd them in the city. I got them from my in-laws when two of my daughters got married, so I had to keep them in the city where I stay, explains the lady people in Najjanankumbi call Mama Andrew.

Among the owners of the cattle Akandwanaho herds, is another lady in her 50s commonly known as Senga in Busabala, a surburb in Kampala where she resides. Senga, who owns about 20 heads of the cattle, says that she too herds cattle in the city because she has no choice.

I have neither the means nor the ability to rear them from the village which would be ideal, since I reside in the city, she explains.

Senga is a widow with children, most of them grown up. Though she is sick most of the time and can no longer have a regular job, Senga is charged with the entire responsibility of looking after her children now that her husband passed away. She thus needs something to fall back on in case of a financial emergency so she asked her father for cattle and the cattle was given to her.

There is always ready market for cattle if you want to sell. With children you have to be prepared for any financial emergency all the time, she says.

Some of the cattle she rears however are not hers. They belong to city dwellers who are either too busy, do not have enough land or live in rented houses. Sengas home is an incomplete house her husband left behind with a small compound where she keeps the cattle. I alternately share the calves born by these cattle with the owners. Im sometimes unlucky however and I herd a cow whose calves always die in infancy.

Some benefits for those herding in the city

Senga only sells her cattle for beef when she needs money urgently and this is on very rare occasions. Milk is collected on a regular basis, which she sells to regular customers and gives some to her children to take.

You cant get much from indigineous cattle though, and particularly these feeding so poorly in the city, she says to emphasize that the milk collected is not much.

Kandwanaho who is paid by his bosses to move around with the cattle everyday to look for water and food, says the cattle feed on pasture, peels, polythene bags and all sorts of rubbish from rubbish pits. They take water from any where; rivers, swamps, pothole, name it.

But then, Kandwanaho cannot go wherever he wants with these cattle. This is because it is illegal to herd cattle in Kampala city. According to the Acting Mayor for Kampala City Council, Dr. Hasib Takuba, letting cattle loiter in the city is illegal.

We only allow zero grazing. All those cattle found loitering around the city are supposed to be impounded, he says. Takuba explains that the city is too busy and congested without enough land for herding cattle.

Herding cattle in the city not a bed of roses

Like the herdsman, the cattle owners have their own problems. I just lost a cow which fell in a ditch and died. I often pay for medical services when they fall sick, and sometimes they die. Some of them produce calves that die, so I never gain much, complains Senga.

There are also often damages to pay in case the cattle spoil peoples property and crops as they meander in the city. The cattle are found of eating peoples soap, banana leaves, plants and sometimes even break car windscreens thus often destroying peoples business. This cost is not only incurred by the owners, but also by the herdsmen.

Though I try to keep them from destroying peoples businesses, it is not always easy because they are many and sometimes Im tired, explains Kandwanaho.

KCC says herding cattle in the city is illegal. Veterinary experts say the cattle bred in the city feed on garbage and the like which leads to higher yields in terms of meat and body size. But the animal husbandry specialists say the meat and milk from the cattle are not as healthy as the cattle look. Yet herding cattle in the city continues.

By Eunice Nyiraneza
more from author >>
First published: February 4, 2006
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

Eunice Nyiraneza is a media practitioner at Ultimate Media Consult.