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Vet on Call: Do you know your farm worker?

Saturday February 23 2019

A man herds goats. Farmers and animal health service providers must be able to identify and know those they deal with well for their safety and security, their communities, their animals and produce.

A man herds goats. Farmers and animal health service providers must be able to identify and know those they deal with well for their safety and security, their communities, their animals and produce. PHOTO | PETER WARUTUMO | NMG 

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Animal health service providers and livestock farmers have two things in common, regarding the people they interact with and employ.

While farmers get customers from any part of the country enquiring mainly about buying animals, animal health service providers get calls and visits from many animal keepers seeking services.

In addition, a farmer employs farm workers from various parts of the country as many people from the surrounding tend to shun farm employment.

In the course of my veterinary practice, I have noted that in many areas like Kiambu, Nyeri and Machakos, many farm workers are from other parts of the country.

This is a good development because it creates employment for people from different parts of the nation. It also helps Kenyans from diverse ethnic heritage to understand how various communities live and contribute to building the nation.

Unfortunately, the downside is that in the absence of proper safeguards, the situation may enhance insecurity and employee pilferage of farm animals and produce.

One time a farmer narrated to me how she lost her two prized bulls. She had fattened the animals to sell them to raise her children’s first term school fees.

Close to Christmas that year, her employee brought a buyer for the animals. The buyer said he wanted to transport the bulls for slaughter in Nakuru.

They could not agree on the price and the buyer left. The following morning, both the bulls and the worker were missing.

Later, the farmer learnt the w had a fake identity card. She had not carried out due diligence on her farmworker’s identity as all she knew was that he was from western.

The worker had been employed when the farmer desperately needed a herdsman. The previous one had abruptly left and she was having difficulties getting a replacement.

With the pressure of taking care of the animals, milking and her teaching job, the farmer had just signed up the first person who showed interest and could do the job.


Another employee disappeared with five pigs that he was supposed to deliver to a slaughterhouse and again, the farmer realised he had not done a good background check on the worker before employment.

In the past, many farmers used to employ workers from the neighbourhood, it was easy to positively identify people because they and their families were well-known.

So, what options do farmers have to safeguard their animals, produce, the community and themselves in this era of free movement of workers and trade of animals and farm produce countrywide?

I was impressed the other day by the assistant chief at a function I attended in Boro village next to the Aberdares Forest in Murang’a when she said that Kenyans from any part of the country are free to be employed on the farms in her area of jurisdiction.

However, she advised the farmers to ensure that they know their employees very well by officially checking their identification documents and getting references of people who can be contacted when necessary.

She added that they should also check the prospective employees’ phone numbers if registered by the telephone service provider and if the names match with the identity card numbers.

Further, every local employer should record with the assistant chief the names, contacts and identity card numbers of their employees. The employing farmer should also ensure that his workers are well-known by the neighbours.

The assistant chief concluded that any bad person who knew they had been properly identified and are traceable would prefer to leave the area than commit a crime for fear of being apprehended and punished.

I always advice livestock farmers to ensure they get the identity and contact of the buyer and reference from other farmers the trader has transacted with.

The farmer and the buyer should have a written and signed sale agreement for animals and produce. The agreement may just be handwritten but signed by the buyer and the seller.

Listening to the local administrator’s advice, I could not help revisiting my meeting with the terrorist who headed the recent attack at the Dusit D2 Complex in Nairobi.


The young man presented an injured cat at my clinic on December 29, 2018. He was soft-spoken and very confident. He, however, looked devastated by the cat’s condition.

The feline appeared to have been hit by a moving object, like a motor cycle, around the left eye.

Both the eye and the surrounding tissues were heavily swollen and reddened making the eye appear to be popping out of its socket.

The damage involved mainly soft tissues and the eye was likely to fully recover. I did the treatment and asked the young man to return the cat after one week for review.

As I wrote the invoice, I spelt the man’s name as “Farouk” from his pronunciation and his face lit up as he commented, “You’re one of the few people who has spelt my name correctly the first time they hear it.”

When I enquired his full name, telephone and physical residential address, he complained I was asking too many details.

I responded that it was an official requirement that we fully know our customers and record their identification details.
He gave me the information but never presented the cat for review.

It came as a shock when days later, security agencies identified the same person as the lead terrorist in the dusitD2 attack.

I went back to my service records and confirmed the name and the residential address. Newspaper reports also indicated that he loved cats.

I could identify with all those details from my records. As I closed the files, I mentally heard the voice of my public safety and security trainer in Iraq emphasising, “Terrorists know the best way to conceal yourself is to hide in plain sight.”

That is what Farouk had been doing with his apparently normal life in Ruaka.

At whatever level, farmers and animal health service providers must be able to identify and know those they deal with well for their safety and security, their communities, their animals and produce.