Realising livestock potential in Asals

Charles Rubia, a butcher in Elburgon, Nakuru County. Private organisations are playing their role in supporting the livestock and animal products industry.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Livestock farming is sentimental and predominantly practised for subsistence and community recognition. 

It is also a vital sector of the Kenyan economy, providing income and employment.

However, the industry needs to shift to a more structured approach if we are to harness its full potential.

The 2019 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report projects that the country’s population will grow from 47 million to 96 million by 2050.  This will definitely pile pressure on food supplies.

With the envisioned population boom, agriculture will be the biggest gainer from a food demand perspective. 

This includes the demand for animal-source food, both meat and dairy products.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that the annual average Kenyan consumption of livestock products is 16 kilos of meat, 121 litres of milk and 45 eggs.

Given the perennial challenges the livestock industry continues to encounter, the benefits are at the risk of not being realised. Most livestock farmers are small to medium-scale.

They cannot attract the financial support required to increase productivity as their returns are considered minimal.

The sector is also dependent on rain for feed. Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asals) face the brunt of global warming, which continues to shrink the little rainfall these regions receive.

Interestingly, these counties face the worst flooding too due to sparse vegetation.

Fodder production

However, there is an opportunity to shield the regions from severe drought effects through proper water harvesting and management practices and by putting in place long-term measures for consistent fodder production.

Poor production methods and limited market access also prevent livestock farmers from developing economically.

Coupled with poor grazing practices and a lack of vaccination, we often produce low-quality animals.

Livestock insecurity is also a key challenge in communities that still practise rustling.

While the challenges are numerous, all hope is not lost. The State Department of Livestock introduced the National Livestock Master Plan (LMP) in 2021 to guide the development of sustainable livestock sector investments from the government, development partners and the private sector.

The programme has seen a lot of headway towards the support of the industry.

In February, the government in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Heifer International, invested $93.5 million (Sh11.7 billion) in livestock farming to boost production.

The six-year project supports climate-smart production enhancement for small livestock, livestock market development, project management and coordination.

Private organisations are also playing their role in supporting the sector. KCB Foundation is committed to supporting the livestock sector to achieve its potential and improve the income opportunities for farmers.

Through the Foundation, KCB has commenced borehole drilling in Asals supported by county governments as well as facilitating water harvesting through construction of pans.

This year, the foundation intends to drill 10 boreholes in these counties.

We also facilitate access to credit; a challenge for farmer-producer organisations in the livestock industry due to their unstructured nature.  

Through these combined efforts, we aim to enhance farmers’ commercial viability and value chain in Asals by enhancing income opportunities.

Additionally, we have supported the construction of feedlots and trained pastoralists on their benefits. 

This is good practice in livestock rearing as opposed to traditional grazing that subjects the animals to long-distance walks, leading to poor nutrition and the spread of diseases that affect the quality of meat.

There is also need to mitigate the influence of middlemen to enable farmers get the most value for their animals.

Auction markets

Towards this end, KCB Foundation is facilitating infrastructure support for livestock auction markets, commencing with Garsen, Kajiado and Busia counties.

Here, farmers are in direct control of trading with sellers.

For the large-scale farmers, we link them directly with off takers such the Kenya Meat Commission and Choice Meats, easing the marketing burden on the farmers. Last year, KCB Bank in partnership with the Kenya Veterinary Association and the Directorate of Veterinary Services supported the rollout of a Livestock Identification and Tracking System (LITS) in Taita-Taveta, Kajiado and Laikipia counties.

The scheme is at national and county levels.

LITS ensures that livestock meet the required animal health and tracing capabilities, raising their market value.

It enhances our viability in international trade in animals and animal products.

Our objective is to create and enable a reliable marketing infrastructure – locally and internationally – which will contribute towards the growth of the economy while at the same time creating wealth for livestock communities.

Through strategic partnerships, we can realise the viability and promises of the livestock industry, since the demand is here. Slowly and steadily, we will be back to the lucrative international markets.

Caroline Wanjeri is the head of KCB Foundation, [email protected]