Kenya is a country that is blessed with an immense livestock resource. The country boasts about 17.4 million cattle, 17 million sheep, 27.7 million goats and 2.6 million camels. It is estimated that this sector accounts for about 10% of GDP and about 42% of the agricultural GDP. We derive our domestic supplies of meat, milk and dairy products, and other livestock products from this sector. It however faces numerous challenges, the biggest being lack of a centralised approach to development and growth of the sector as a single entity.
Within the livestock sector, the dairy sub-sector is a little more developed and structured relative to beef cattle, goats, sheep and camel. Although the dairy sub-sector continues to face challenges in the areas of animal husbandry, disjointed inputs supply, poor sector services delivery and lack of financial access by small scale producers, its success can largely be attributed to the role played by the Kenya Dairy Board in the regulation and development of a production, marketing, distribution and supply of dairy produce. The meat sub-sector on the other hand is highly fragmented, poorly managed and riddled with inefficiencies that affect profit potential, predictability and meaningful planning along the entire value chain. Pastoralists are estimated to produce 86% of Kenya’s beef, mutton and chevron, yet this group is largely excluded from meaningful value capture.
Beef and Leather
Beef is, by far, the most popular meat consumed in Kenya, representing 69% of meat consumed by volume. Demand will continue to grow, driven by increasing urbanization and a growing middle class. It is also important to emphasise that local demand will outstrip supply in the anticipatable future. Lets keep in mind that beef for export is not even in the equation, as we speak of the future. If Kenya does not improve its production, range management, value chain promotion and marketing, the country may as well prepare to use its scarce foreign exchange to meet the shortfall in local beef demand.
Kenya’s leather industry is yet another downside of the livestock sector. Before the 1990s, Kenya’s leather industry products such as raw hides and skins and processed leather materials thrived in the domestic as well as foreign markets. Inappropriate policies occasioned in the mid 90’s such as the scraping of export tax compensation, led to the collapse of many tanneries and pushed local leather actors out of the market, leading to the flooding of imported leather products into the country.
How can we redeem our Livestock sector?
Between the late 60s and mid-80s, the beef industry had started gathering strength that would have propelled it to its full potential. These were the days when The Livestock Marketing Division (LMD) was actively promoting livestock trade, when the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) was a model in Africa’s meat industry, and when the government was actively promoting the establishment of large scale ranches in the rangelands and expansion of feed lots in order to increase meat off-take. Measures were also put in place to expand the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) farms to provide credit to livestock producers. All these started falling apart due to lack of focus, institutional mismanagement and good amounts of confusion within the policy frameworks.
Fast forward to 2015, the government seems to be showing signs of revitalising the livestock sector, starting with the almost-to-be-unveiled livestock insurance scheme for pastoralists and the on-going livestock policy reforms such as the veterinary policy. Devolution has also come in handy as a few Counties are beginning to put up key infrastructure such as abattoirs and livestock markets. There has however to be a macro strategic attempt to develop and promote livestock sector holistically and not in bits and pieces.
Livestock development and promotion body
As mentioned elsewhere on this article, the Kenya Dairy Board has done a reasonably good job over the years in shaping and giving direction to the dairy sector. The meat sector does also require an industry voice, promotion, value addition and market regulation. Today if you ask who speaks for the Meat sector, the answer would be no one. On paper, the Kenya Meat Commission is mandated with the role of promotion and regulation of livestock and livestock resources including cattle, sheep, goat and camels under the Kenya Meat Commission Act 1990. In the same breath, KMC is a commercial player in the same industry, which represents a significant conflict of interest. The absence of an entity to champion, regulate, develop and promote our meat industry is what is causing us not to tap into all the possibilities that could drive the Meat Sector into a whole new level.
In order for us to see livestock from a macro perspective, is there a possibility of creating a one stop shop that would champion the development and promotion of our livestock economy, meat and dairy included. This thought is also in line with the findings by the task force on parastatal reforms in Kenya that was constituted by the President and chaired by Abdikadir Mohamed and Isaac Awuondo.
While such a body would focus on industry development, mainly from a market view point locally and internationally, all local actors both private and public, county governments included should focus on sustainable livestock production, better management of our rangelands, strengthening of services such as livestock health – including putting up strategic disease control zones, finishing services and connections with end markets such as processors. This recipe will most certainly inject the much needed impetus to drive the Meat sector to unprecedented growth, leading to increased levels of employment, wealth creation and an enhanced contribution to Kenya’s GDP.
Written by Abdikarim Daud, Livestock Portfolio Manager