Farming has for a long time been associated with rural communities. Urban keeping of livestock and growing of crops is, however, steadily rising.
The many lawful urban farmers peg their activities on the county government bylaws and the designated use of the land.
However, there has been increased conflict between urban farmers and property developers, with the latler citing the Public Health Act, which prohibits anyone from creating a public nuisance.
Kenya has sufficient laws and regulations to guide growth of the two economic activities. They include the Public Health Act, the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA), the Animal Diseases Act and the Physical Planning Act.
One of the major points of conflict between urban farmers and other citizens is creation of public nuisance.
A public nuisance is defined as an event or occurrence that is injurious to the health of people, animals and the environment directly or indirectly.
It may be a noxious smell, unsightly phenomenon like a manure heap, environmental degradation, noise and exposing humans to diseases.
A month ago, I got a call from a very distressed pig farmer from Kahawa West, Nairobi.
“Doctor, the Nairobi County government people are coming to demolish my pig farm where I have invested all my savings. I can’t survive without my pigs,” Muthoni, the farmer said.
She explained that she had 250 pigs on part of a communal land. The part where her farm was located belonged to her mother, with the entire land that was under one title deed being designated for agriculture.
Unfortunately for Muthoni, someone had erected a block of flats next to her farm. The developer had complained the pigs were smelly and they constituted a public nuisance that was detrimental to his investment.
I set out for the farm with my two doctor interns. We could pick the piggy smell from 300 metres away.
At the farm gate, there was a heap of pig manure in the open and lots of flies buzzing in the air or patching on the perimeter fence of the pig house. The grass and soil around the pig farm was coloured dark grey from pasty pig dung.
Muthoni did not appear perturbed by the hygiene chaos on her farm. I gathered from her that she had not done pig production before.
She had also been advised by friends and other pig farmers that feeding pigs on hotel food waste was the most economical method of production.
As we got into the pigsty, I almost broke my tolerance rule due to the overwhelming stench. To my right were soot-covered drums of swill, as we call food waste fed to pigs. I made a mental note that at least Muthoni boiled the swill before feeding the animals.
The piggery had stone floors and internal walls made of wooden rafters. The perimeter wall and the roof were made of iron sheets.
The layout of the pig house was good with wide enough corridors and good animal movement provisions. However, the whole pigsty was filthy. The pigs were white but almost all were stained black or grey.
Quite a number of pigs had material hanging from the anuses, which we determined to be strings or polythene papers fed in the swill and were now exiting the digestive system intact. The animals’ dung was pasty, blackish-grey and sticky.
Fighting flies to avoid them patching on our faces was a major preoccupation as we traversed the piggery. Honestly, I had not seen such a pigsty in many years.
Lastly, we inspected the waste disposal system. A drain passed to the outside at the lower end of the unit into the open beyond the perimeter fence. Dung was transported outside in wheelbarrows and stacked next to the exit of the foul water.
COMPLIANCE TO THE LAW
By the time we finished the inspection, Muthoni agreed with me that she had created a serious public health.
Before giving her the feasible remedial options at her disposal, I reviewed the documents left by the Nairobi County officers.
They were public health, veterinary and enforcement officers. The letter they left had given Muthoni seven days to remedy the situation or face closure and prosecution.
We agreed she would immediately engage the county government directorates involved in her activity and together, they set out a programme for her compliance to the law.
I was to provide my professional services to guide her in the compliance. However, she had to immediately shift her feeding from swill to commercial pig feed.
That would almost eliminate the smell fully within two weeks. It would also make the pigsty easier to clean as the dung would be well-formed, light brown, not stick and hence easy to sweep off.
She also agreed to connect tap water from a nearby borehole and control the flies using appropriate insecticides.
Finally, she would dig adequate covered waste disposal pits to compost the manure for one month before selling it to crop farmers, as required by the law.
Before the end of seven days, we met the county government officials at their office and they confirmed there had been good and welcome changes on the farm. The smell and flies had heavily reduced.
I visited the farm this week and the pigs were clean white. Flies have almost all disappeared and the air was clean. Njagi, the farm caretaker, even commented he could comfortably eat his lunch inside the pigsty.