More than 2,000 pastoralists who had migrated to remote areas of Tana River and Lamu counties in Kenya’s coastal region are back home and with them Ksh1,000 ($10) notes that are no longer legal tender.
The herders are now appealing to the Central Bank to open a short window for them to swap their old notes.
The pastoralists, who had been grazing in Witu and Boni in Lamu, say owing to long journeys in the wilderness, they could not get back home in time to beat the September 30 deadline.
In an interview with the Nation, the herdsmen said they were made aware of that their Ksh1,000 notes were useless at the weekend when they reached trading centres and tried to pay for services.
“We tried paying for food in a hotel in Minjila, only to be told the money was not valid. It nearly ended in a confrontation with the hotel owner, but someone who understood where we had come from later explained to us what was going on,” noted Mohammed Barisa.
Mr Barisa said about 2,000 pastoralists were still in the hinterlands grazing their cows, unaware of the changes taking place in the country.
He noted that the groups of herdsmen left home in February and have no mode of communication or any information regarding the currency changes.
The herders also recounted making huge losses at the weekend to unscrupulous traders who sought to buy livestock from them on their return trip.
“We even sold some sheep and goats to some people, and they paid us with these old Ksh1,000 notes. We have close to Ksh200,000 ($2,000) with us, but now we are told we have papers that no bank can take,” said Ishmael Barako, a herder.
Further, he said that some livestock traders are heading to the forests with trucks to buy cattle with the old notes from herders still in the dark about the currency swap.
The pastoralists are now appealing to the Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge to give them a chance to exchange their notes.
“We are in various groups from different areas. Our groups have leaders who can confirm who is from where so that everything will be very transparent to save us from this loss we are facing,” pleaded Mr Barako.
More than 5,000 pastoralists reportedly moved to areas of Lamu and Tana Delta in search of pasture according to reports by the National Drought Management Authority.