A herder in Turkana South Sub County leading his camels to a water point due to drought.

| Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Pastoralists on the edge of climate change: Livestock owners embrace trade

For the millions of pastoralists in northern Kenya, their way of life could soon fall prey to climate change. A system that has supported them for thousands of years could end due to changes in the weather.

Frequent droughts have left a trail of death and destruction in most places. Now pastoralists in Turkana County have been urged to sell some of their livestock to avoid losing them to drought.

County pastoral economy executive Philip Aemun said while pastoralism is the main source of livelihood with more than 75 per cent of the people depending on the sector, frequent droughts pose a serious threat.

He wondered why many villagers are still keeping a large number of animals for prestige.

“Due to climate change, pastoralists have always been faced with inadequate pasture and water for their livestock. This can easily be solved by embracing trade,” said Mr Aemun, adding that animals must be sold when they are still in healthy condition.

He observed that agencies developing mitigation strategies, such as distribution of feeds, vaccination, and provision of water, would not be able to save all animals in the expansive county.

The devolved unit targets more than 15,000 animals at Kapua and Kalokol village in Turkana Central Sub-County for a vaccination drive.

More than 50, 000 animals will be vaccinated against the contagious caprine pleuropneumonia, locally known as Loukoi, in Kibish Sub-County.

Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) last month launched a livestock off-take programme in the region. KMC assistant production manager Tom Okayo said their aim is to buy 1,000 heads of cattle at Sh20, 000 each.

“We can only buy a certain number of animals due to budgetary constraints. We are, however, seeking more stakeholders to ensure we get adequate resources to buy as many as possible,” he said.

Outside the county

Turkana is among 10 counties that have been severely affected by drought. KMC seeks to buy 11,250 heads of cattle from affected pastoralists.

Turkana County Pastoral executive Philip Aemun leading a livestock vaccination drive at Kapua village in Turkana Central Sub County where he urged pastoralists to sell part of their livestock to avoid losses during drought.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Mr Aemun said a Sh10 million livestock sale yard has been constructed at Kaikor Centre in Kibish to improve market access for pastoralists near the Kenyan border with South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The strategic location will boost rural income by linking pastoralists to traders from Lodwar, Kakuma, and Lokichoggio and outside the county through scheduled market days.

“Pastoralists have been losing their livestock through attacks and now to drought for lack of water and pasture. The yard will provide an opportunity for owners to earn from trade,” he said.

Turkana County Livestock Marketing Council chairman Joseph Losuru said there are 49 marketing associations that seek to develop sustainable value chains to empower small-scale livestock producers.

He said the livestock sector is yet to be fully exploited due to lack of capital for investments on value addition as well as poor market linkages.

Lodwar livestock marketing associations chairman Lucas Kaaman the yards should also have slaughterhouses.

“We request for support from development partners to help us construct a slaughterhouse at established markets,” he said.

During the first ever pastoralism regional conference in Turkana that brought on board communities from Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia Governor Josphat Nanok released livestock figures in the region.

From 2017 county projections and estimates, there are 1,932,108 cattle, 6,033,152 goats, 3,968,848 sheep, 1,018,136 camels, 748,254 donkeys, 8,655 bee hives, and 228,951 indigenous chicken.

“They produce 10 million litres of milk that translates to Sh165 million in value and 286 million kilograms of beef valued at Sh172 million annually,” Mr Nanok said.

“They also produce 162 million kilograms of mutton, which gives us Sh130 million, 363, 111.5 kg of poultry meat that gives us Sh24 million and three million eggs, giving us Sh45 million,” he added.

The county boss said value addition livestock products will boost income for locals and raise revenue for the devolved unit. He said his administration would strengthen trading by constructing yards at strategic places.

“Trade will not empower locals economically and act as an easy mode of livestock off-take programme that will ease pressure on rangelands, especially during droughts,” said Mr Nanok.