Category Archives: Articles

Can development partners and NGOs facilitate a linkage between poor pastoral livestock producers and sustainable export traders and agribusiness? Thereby setting the stage for the Private Sector to follow

A Private Sector Solution to Drought Relief

 Having worked in development for 25 years, I came to realize that can we can’t speak of food security and the need to link markets to the poor without making the sustainable actors of agribusinesses (large and small) the focus of our activities.  Value-addition of drought-stricken livestock can prevent catastrophic losses of pastoral livestock during droughts.

Helping pastoralists make money from their drought-stricken livestock

NGOs and development partners can be, should be – and are critical players in establishing connections between the poor and agribusiness and, through innovative funding can actually show how value addition to products such as pastoral livestock can actually make money in global markets for these export businesses and the pastoralist livestock producers.


Quality feed and professional management can turn emaciated, drought-stricken livestock into market-ready animals in as little as 2-3 months

Here in Kenya and the surrounding Horn of Africa, we have recurrent droughts during which pastoral herders lose 30 – 70 % of their livestock. And by and large, these pastoralists remain unconnected to the global market, so the mortalities continue despite all decades of development assistance, government and NGO programs.


 Livestock, even drought-stricken ones, recover quickly with proper care and feed.

Can NGOs & Development Partners Jump-Start the Process?

Can development partners and NGOs facilitate this linkage between poor pastoral livestock producers and sustainable export traders and agribusiness?

I believe they can set the stage for the private sector to get involved.

If development partners and NGOs fund initial demonstration in partnership with the private sector to demonstrate the benefits of value addition of pastoral drought-stricken livestock, bringing them to market weight so they can be viable products, rather than the dead animal pictures we’ve seen all too often in the Press.

Private-Sector Cash for Drought -Stricken Livestock

This would place cash in the hands of pastoralists during droughts—when they need it most and ensure a sustainable supply of livestock for exporters during periods of drought or even during extended dry spells.

This would be business. It would benefit all sides. And most importantly, it would be sustainable and begin linking pastoralists to global markets for the long-term.

What’s the evidence that this actually works?

The Feinstein International Center based at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and others have evaluated this concept in Ethiopia.  The evidence to date is, that this approach  works producing between 6 – 41 times benefits over costs! Thus once the infrastructure is present these are win-win situations for all!  Here are some links to their reports, articles and policy briefs.

Policy Brief:  Benefits and Costs of Supplemental Cattle feeding During Droughts

Impact Assessments of Livelihoods-based Drought Interventions in Moyale and Dire Woredas

Journal of Humanitarian Assistance: Money to burn? Comparing the Costs and Benefits of Drought Responses in Pastoral Areas of Ethiopia.

Could development partners and NGOs be the facilitators who by funding initial fattening and finishing activities of drought stricken-livestock, link agribusiness with marginalized pastoralists paving the way for lasting, sustainable, economic development?

Can a small group of exporters revolutionize the livestock sector in Kenya?

Kenya has a long and illustrious livestock sector history. In the past, Kenya was the first county in the world to establish a private-sector artificial insemination network to improve the breeds and productivity of Kenyan Livestock. As a result, Kenya became a well-respected dairy producer and for some time the World Record for Milk Production for an Ayrshire Dairy Cow was held by a Kenyan cow. In addition, Kenya meat and livestock were renown throughout the developed world and Kenyan meat garnished the plates of consumers in Europe and the United Kingdom.

However, though a combination of livestock sector disinvestment and the fact that Kenya did not keep up with global trends, the Kenyan livestock sector has suffered serious setbacks. The Kenyan meat sector is no longer globally competitive, despite the various major efforts of a group of Kenyan Meat Exporters, due to its inconsistent quality, the age of the livestock when they are processed, and the outdated production and transport systems.

Creation of a Kenyan Meat and Livestock Exporters Council

Through a series of discussions over the past several years, a group consisting of the main committed and long-term meat exporters from Kenya have come together and agreed that they need to unite to create the necessary changes in the Kenyan livestock sector to enable their products to be globally competitive and the meat export sector to be profitable.A Board of Advisors of prominent government, private sector industry players, and the Council’s appointed lawyer will be appointed to serve the Board of Directors as and when required.


To revolutionize the livestock and meat production systems to enable Kenya to become an admired and respected global player in the meat and livestock export industries. Kenya Exporter Council


The Kenyan Meat and Livestock Exporters Council will adopt a progressive strategy to accomplish our vision of revolutionizing the livestock and meat production systems in Kenya. The Council has appointed Livestock Trade Services (LTS) as a Specialized Service Provider to unite members of the supply chain to modernize the production and processing systems including production, transport, and processing through the application of quality assurance, quality improvement and quality control measures. On the importing side, LTS will identify emerging niche and mainstream markets which are appropriate for Kenyan exports to exploit, develop and implement strategies and programs to market Kenyan meat and livestock to create lucrative long-term markets for our products.

Through these measures LTS will facilitate and create a reliable supply and consistent quality of the various types of livestock that importing customers require for their meat and livestock imports.To protect and nurture this investment the Council commits to operating adhering to recognized corporate governance principles and operate businesses and the Exporters Council ethically and transparently.

The strategy for dealing with crises and problems as they arise on the importer side will be to develop advance contingency plans which enable members to react rapidly and in concert engaging all relevant actors including the Government of Kenya (Embassies, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, and Industrialization) including the Directorate of Veterinary Services to work alongside of the Exporters Council and the Specialized Livestock Service Provider to resolve any issues or problems and put into place any and all necessary changes in our system and procedures to ensure that the problem is not repeated.

Strategic Pillars

The focus will be on the following strategic pillars, all of which form key components in which appropriate interventions are necessary to ensure sustained, quality meat and livestock export from Kenya.

1.    Convincing Livestock Producers to sell younger male livestock

To be competitive in the global market, we must move towards purchasing, fattening, and finishing younger livestock. Failing to do this means we will remain exporters of the lowest quality, lowest profit meat.

2.    Establishing and Maintaining Producer and Supplier Loyalty

Over the last 10 years of operations, we’ve found that supplier and producer loyalty has been very difficult to create and maintain. As elaborated elsewhere in this document, we believe that by going to the County level and establishing contractual relationships with producers and assisting these supply chain partners during times of hardship such as drought will develop sustained and committed loyalty.

3.    Fattening and Finishing livestock in Feedlots

All livestock should be well finished and fattened. This can only be economically done through a more intensive feedlot approach.

4.    Maintaining Livestock Inventory

In certain seasons such as rainy seasons or when there is a drought, livestock of quality are less available from producers. These times can be predicted and inventory stocks need to need purchased in advance. Capital needs to be set aside to do this.

5.    Improvements in Animal Welfare

Animal welfare improvements need to be made in the land transport and slaughterhouse sectors. Such improvements are not only justified on moral grounds; they make good business sense.

6.    Improvements in Meat Processing and Chilling

Meat processing and chilling standards need to be brought up to international standards to ensure attractive carcasses, tender and hygienic meat.

7.    Livestock and Meat Traceability

To be competitive at the higher meat price segments, we must introduce a traceabilitypasture to fork livestock and meat traceability system. This will give high end importers and consumers’ confidence in our products.

8.    Niche Segment Production and Marketing

Due to Kenya’s diverse livestock inventory and natural (organic) production strategies, there are numerous niche market segments which the Exporters Council can take advantage of to increase sales and profitability. Such strategies will require focused import side marketing strategies as well as strictly controlled production, transport, and processing strategies for any particular niche. However, such approaches can be highly profitable if properly implemented.

9.    Collaborative Research and Development

Meat quality, tenderness, hygiene, appearance, and flavour can determine which market and price segment that we as exporters can exploit. Much of this is determined by the balance between breed of livestock, feed type, soil types, animal welfare practices and stresses, fear induced prior to slaughter, and slaughter and chilling techniques.

Additionally, culturally and socially, we are precipitating behavior change and need to know within each group and community we work with how best to do that. Thus social scientists can assist us to research and identify the best, most culturally appropriate to achieve the behavior changes that are necessary for us to produce the best possible meat for our importing clients.

As we move forward we propose to engage a variety of research actors to work with us to help us to meet and exceed our customer needs and preferences. Possible institutions could include, KALRO, ILRI, AU-IBAR, IGAD, the Museums of Kenya, and various local and international NGOs.

This article is a summary of a proposal to Kenya Markets Trust (KMT). To collaborate and for more details, contact [email protected]

Could linking livestock to export markets be a sustainable drought response to La Nina?

In East Africa, including Kenya, the presence of a La Niῆa produces drought.  El Niῆo, the ‘Christ Child” was a term coined by Peruvians who would sometimes experience torrential rains beginning around Christmas time in Peru. La Niῆa, “the girl child” is the flip side of an El Niῆo and generally produces the opposite effects. So in Peru, if a La Niῆa follows an El Niῆo, they can expect a prolonged period of drought.

Scientists have determined that both and its sister La Niῆa have global implications for weather patterns affecting each of the 7 continents. They are caused by a shift in Pacific Ocean currents causing up-welling or down-welling of cold and warm waters.

Due to the strong El Niῆo of 2016, ad based on historical records of El Niῆo strength, there is some likelihood that the La Niῆa will continue for the Short Rains of 2017 and Long Rains of 2018, making this a historic 2-year drought.

Figure 1 Red spikes indicate El Nino events, whereas blue troughs indicate La Nina events. Severity increases with greater departures of standard deviation.[1]

Historically La Niῆas have lasted longer than El Niῆos as can be seen in the Multivariate ENSO Index above. Also in general, the stronger the El Niῆo, the stronger the follow-on La Niῆa will be. Therefore, with a historically strong El Niῆo in 2015 – 2016, there is a reasonable likelihood of a moderate to strong La Niῆa which could last up to two successive years.

The currently evolving El Nino situation latest predictions (September 2016) predict sustained drought conditions during the Short Rains of 2016 and Long Rains of 2017[2]; and 2) the knowledge that seasonally even in good years, livestock in pastoral areas of Kenya lose significant amounts of weight making them less valuable, prone to disease with attendant increases in mortality.

During droughts, estimates are that losses are 14% – 86% of livestock herds resulting in significant market value losses, wasted productivity, and increasing the overall methane emissions per kg of meat produced in pastoral areas.[1],[2],[3]

We propose to link viable and sustainable export markets with drought stricken pastoral livestock to enable pastoralists to

1) Receive much-needed cash for their emaciated male livestock before they die;

2) Reduce pastoral core herd size to contain reproductive females to quickly rebuild their herds post-drought and increasing the chances of survival of the remaining livestock through more feed availability per head;

3) Purchase livestock feed from the income for selling their livestock to support their remaining herd, in particular the reproductive age females and young stock.

4) Partner with the Livestock and Meat Exporters Association to place their core stock of valued females in Association feeding centers where they can be fed through the drought, returned to their owners who are then obligated to sell the Association members the males subsequently born stock for an agreed period of time.

A public-private approach

Livestock traders including exporters generally act as resource harvesters. They purchase livestock from pastoralists and then, quickly slaughter them for export or the local market. Seasonally livestock condition deteriorates during the two dry seasons making livestock export trade difficult, since the quality is often too poor for export.

When drought conditions exist, conditions are worse and traders see alternative supplies from as far away as Tanzania and Somalia, though often these attempts fail and they are forced to halt or greatly reduce trading. This is particularly true for the export market as importers are more demanding in terms of quality than local market buyers in Kenya.

Livestock traders like farmers and ranchers are risk adverse by nature, and thus are hesitant to invest in new ventures or approaches, unless they’ve witnessed a working model.

Therefore, our approach is to begin with development partner and project support and then we are confident that the private sector will expand this approach eventually making a very positive impact on pastoral livestock producers.

Additionally, livestock traders will see the benefit of innovative feeding solutions which will enable them to obtain a reliable supply of consistent quality for their domestic and export markets throughout the year, regardless of drought conditions or not.

[1] Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI). Earth Systems Research Laboratory. NOAA. 2016.

[2] Kenya Meteorological Department KMD/FCSD/5-2016/SO/03. September 5, 2016.

[3] Drought and recovery: Livestock dynamics among the Ngisonyoka Turkana of Kenya. Human Ecology December 1987, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 371–389.

[4] The effect of multiple droughts on cattle in Obbu, Northern Kenya. Journal of Arid Environments Volume 49, Issue 2, October 2001, Pages 375-386.

[5 Mobility and livestock mortality in communally used pastoral areas: the impact of the 2005-2006 drought on livestock mortality in Maasailand. David Nkedianye Email author, Jan de Leeuw, Joseph O Ogutu, Mohammed Y Said, Terra L Saidimu, Shem C Kifugo, Dickson S Kaelo and Robin S Reid. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 20111:17. DOI: 10.1186/2041-7136-1-17