How to exploit potential of livestock sub-sector

How to exploit potential of livestock sub-sector
A herder and his livestock in search of pasture. Photo/KIRERA MWITI

Jane Mwangi

That Kenyans eat the most meat in East Africa is indisputable. Recent data indicate that the average Kenyan eats almost three times as much meat as the average Rwandese. In 2014, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research found that Kenya was experiencing a shortage of approximately 4,500 tonnes of meat, the result of high local consumption and demand from export market.

This means that the livestock industry is big business due to the growing demand for meat. But where does Kenya’s meat come from? Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid areas host over 60 per cent of all livestock, employing about 90 per cent of the local population. The ASALs occupy 80 per cent of the land mass and support pastoralism which provides livelihood to more than three million people.

Nationally, the livestock sub-sector employs 50 per cent of agricultural labour and has the highest employment multiplier. The livestock sub-sector contributes approximately 12 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and accounts for 30 per cent of the agricultural output. Despite being a major contributor to the GDP, the livestock economy remains largely informal, lowly productive, underdeveloped and hardly attracts investments.

This is attributable to several factors including climate change, undernourishment, diseases, poor breeds and animal husbandry, past policy issues and inadequate financing and the multiple market intermediaries who depress earnings of the livestock keepers.

Poor infrastructure, low literacy levels and cultural practices compound the challenges faced by livestock-keeping communities. Insecurity in the ASALs that escalates especially during drought also cause huge economic losses, livestock and human deaths.

Historically, the private sector and financial intermediaries have had little interest in developing specialised support services and products for pastoralists owing to perceived minimal return on investments.

How can this be addressed? Livestock has the highest potential for reducing poverty, creating employment and contributing to economic growth. There is, therefore, need for enhanced support to transform the sub-sector into a profitable commercial sector that provides high returns to the farmers and contributes to the economy. Improving market access and productivity for the livestock value chain players and strengthening husbandry and management are some of the ways of addressing this.

This can be achieved through enhanced capacity building and promotion of innovative fodder management, like the use of the soil-less hydroponic farming technology, and establishing feedlots and fodder production programmes.

Additionally, mobilising livestock keepers and livestock value chain actors into cooperatives and community groups can contribute to joint efforts towards value addition, productivity and access to markets and finance.

There is also need for enhanced promotion of financial inclusion through support of business development, capital assets acquisition and operational expenses for commercialisation of the livestock value chain through incentives such as interest free loans from financial institutions.

Moreover, Kenya is challenged to compete for high value live animal and meat markets, or to provide quality assured safe livestock products across all market segments.

This is due to challenges in disease surveillance and traceability, drug residues in meat and meat by products, low health and food safety hygiene standards and systems among other causes. To address this, livestock farmers can adopt the use of innovative livestock traceability and identification systems such as the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) microchips technology.

Through this technology, livestock producers can keep data on husbandry including feeding, vaccinations and treatment. The technology can also be used to control livestock theft. KCB Foundation, through its livestock value chain programme, Mifugo Ni Mali, is working with county governments in the ASALs to address some of these challenges.

The Foundation has recently partnered with Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia and Baringo County governments to support the livestock sub-sector to improve output. The counties have formed an economic block dubbed “The Amaya Triangle Initiative” to transform traditional pastoralism into a modern beef industry.

The Amaya Counties and the Foundation have pooled funds for joint Sh200 million livestock marketing and production initiatives, with KCB Foundation committing Sh100 million and the four counties a matching amount.

Key project activities will include credit provision, livestock value chain actors’ mobilisation, market linkages, financial inclusion and business management skills training.

Under the partnership, KCB Foundation will support the counties’ efforts to develop a profitable, sustainable livestock economy by offering discounted loans to livestock cooperative societies and community ranches in the meat value chains in The Amaya Triangle. It is, therefore, critical for players to engage in increased and sustained investment in the sub-sector as an empowerment and wealth creation tool. —The writer is the Executive Director of KCB Foundation —[email protected]

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