KMT Research Brief

Projected Climate Change and its Potential Impact on Cattle in Kajiado County

Globally, pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities are amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (Thornton et al., 2009). Increasing climate variability and extreme events will affect livestock production and productivity, incomes and food security. Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists already face a number of challenges, and climate change can be seen as just one of the many important drivers affecting their livelihoods. Other drivers include changes in land tenure and land use, population growth, sedentarisation, rapid urbanisation, globalisation, conflict, intensification and institutional changes (Behnke, 2008; Galvin, 2009).

Livestock And Climate Trends

Five of Kenya’s ASAL counties (West Pokot, Laikipia, Turkana, Baringo and Narok) have already passed the 1.5°C average warming threshold, which is enshrined in the Paris Agreement, with 12 more counties projected to follow by 2050. By 2070, maximum temperatures in all counties are expected to exceed 1.5°C, and in the counties of Wajir, West Pokot and Tana River, temperature increases will exceed 2°C. Projections indicate that the impacts of climate change will be significant in the ASALs, as detailed in the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C published in October 2018.

Key Findings

1. Potential impacts of climate on cattle population, people and the economy

The analysis indicates that the temperature in Kajiado County will increase by between 1.00oC to 3.10oC depending on the climate scenario and time period. For the 2030s, it is projected that about 74,000 cattle might be affected by extreme temperatures in the county. The number of people relying on cattle will also be affected and by 2030s, it is projected that a population of about 135,400 people will be affected based on a population growth rate of 3.5%5. In terms of cost, the loss of these cattle from production is estimated to be between Ksh 1.45 and Ksh 2.9 billion based on current cattle prices6. This represents a huge loss to the pastoral community in Kajiado, and argues the need for steps to cushion them from climate change for their economic and social well-being.

2. Livestock trends

Kajiado County has the second largest population of cattle (286,191) and fifth largest population of sheep and goats (963,585) amongst the 21 ASAL counties. However, it registered a 41.7% decline in cattle and 39.9% increase in sheep and goats population. At a landscape level, Amboseli Plains (-61%) and Rift Valley (-52%) registered the highest declines in cattle population and Central Hills (-41%) registered a moderate decline and Athi Kaputiei (-14%) the least decline. The trends in sheep and goats showed that the highest increase was registered in Amboseli Plains (72%) followed by Rift Valley (61%) then Central Hills (57%). A slight decline was observed in Athi Kaputiei (-7%).

3. Projected climate trends

On average for RCP 2.6, the maximum temperature will increase by 1.14oC in 2030s, 1.26oC in 2050s and 1.10oC in 2070s. RCP 4.5 maximum temperature will increase by 1.00oC in 2030s, 1.55oC in 2050s and 1.83oC in 2070s. RCP 8.5 maximum temperature will increase by 1.35oC in 2030s, 1.99oC in 2050s and 3.10oC in 2070s. Projected climate hotspots in Kajiado County are Amboseli Plains and Rift Valley. Under all projections Rift Valley will be the warmest.

4. Land tenure

Land tenure changes in Kajiado County indicate that 64% of the county has been subdivided and privatised, 20% of land is still under group ranch, 4% under protected areas, 4% under lease to Magadi Soda Company, and 8% is under transition from group ranch to private land.


Tenure group ranch to private. 64% privatised, 20% group ranch, 8% group/private, 4% protected and 4% leased.


Livestock trends. 42% decline in cattle and 40% increase is sheep & goats


Projected maximum temperature between the period 2006-2100 will increase between 1.0°C and 3.10°C.13% to 29% of the range will be highly unsuitable (>30°C) for cattle grazing.


People that might be affected by extreme temperature changes. 78,400 people affected by 2016 and by 2030, 135,400.

Impacts on cattle production at extreme temperature stress. 74,000 animals or 26% of total cattle population in the county (valued at 1.45 to 2.9 billion shillings).

Data and Statistical Analysis

Historical trends of cattle, and shoats (sheep and goats) in Kajiado

In this study, 16 censuses conducted in Kajiado County from 1977 to 2014 collected by the Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote sensing (DRSRS) were used. The data was collected by using the Systematic Reconnaissance Flight (SRF). High-winged aircraft equipped with GPS, intercom, and radar altimeters are used for aerial census. A crew of a pilot, two rear seat observers (RSO) and one front seat observer (FSO) conduct the censuses. The RSO are responsible for animal counts, while the FSO assists in navigation, crew coordination and records general environmental parameters. The ecosystem was surveyed along transects in east-west direction and spaced at 5 km intervals. Each transect was divided into equal sample sub units.

Climate data and projections

The IPCC (2013) recommended the use of Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) to analyse climate change. Three Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) that describe possible climate futures (scenarios) were adapted in this study. The three RCPs used in this study were 2.6, 4.5 and 8.5.

This study analysed the relationship between cattle and rainfall and temperature based on more than 300 censuses conducted in the Kenya rangelands between 1977 and 2016 (Ogutu et al., 2016). Cattle densities declined with increases in maximum temperature. Below 30°C, the cattle density was around 10 animals per km2, whereas at about 34°C, cattle density reduced to approximately 1 cattle per km2. This study therefore used 30°C as a threshold temperature above which cattle will be impacted and will have a low production. Moreover, Thornton et al. (2015) indicate that above 30°C, each increase of 1°C reduces cattle feed intake by 3–5%.

Projected impacts on cattle based on temperature changes

The negative effects of increased temperature on feed intake, reproduction and performance across the range of livestock species are reasonably well understood (Porter et al., 2014; Thornton et al., 2015). Paula-Lopes et al. (2012) indicate that high environmental temperatures observed during the hot months of the year reduce fertility in lactating cows. The ability of the various cattle species to withstand extreme temperatures varies. Bos indicus animals (Zebu) have greater thermoregulatory ability than Bos taurus (European) (Lopes et al., 2012). The thermoregulatory efficiency of Bos indicus cattle is due to their lower internal heat production and/or higher heat dissipation to the environment. Thus, these breeds are more resistant to hyperthermia.


Population and distribution trends of cattle and shoats in Kajiado’s ecozones

Livestock trends for Kajiado County level show a significant decline (-42%) in cattle and an accompanying high increase (40%) in sheep and goats (shoats) between 1977 and 2014. Narrowing down to the ecozones, there is a high and significant decline in cattle in two out of the four ecozones – Amboseli (-61%) and Rift Valley (-52%) – and a high decline in Central Hills (-41%) (Table 2 and Figure 5). There was a slight decline of cattle in Athi Kaputiei (-14%) but this was not significant (r2 = 0.023, p = 0.8451). In absolute numbers, the Amboseli Plains cattle population declined from a population of 211,470 animals in 1977 to 82,180 animals in 2014. In Rift Valley, the decline was equally high, with a reduction from 151,880 animals in 1977 to 72,930 animals in 2014. In the Central Hills, the cattle population reduced from 127,930 to 75,825 in the same period and in Athi Kaputiei the declines were minimal, although the region has the lowest cattle population of about 49,590 animals as reported in 2014.

Projected rainfall

The projected rainfall for 2030s for all RCPs indicate that the October–November– December (OND) short rains will increase for many counties in Kenya except for the coastal counties (Figure 6). In comparison, the March–April–May (MAM) long rains will be extremely low for RCP 2.6 for most of Kenya, whereas the RCP 4.5 and 8.5 projections indicate that most of northern Kenya will have rainfall deficits whilst southern Kenya will have a slight increase of rainfall including Kajiado. During the dry season June–July–August–September (JJAS), the rains are projected to decrease for RCP 2.6 and 8.5, whilst for RCP 4.5, western Kenya is projected to have an increase in rains.

Projected temperatures for Kajiado County

The projected temperatures for Kajiado County show a significant change in both the minimum and maximum temperatures for all three RCPs. On average, for RCP 2.6, the maximum temperature will increase by 1.14oC in 2030s, 1.26°C in 2050s and 1.10°C in 2070s. For RCP 4.5, the maximum temperature will increase by 1.00°C in 2030s, 1.55oC in 2050s and 1.83°C in 2070s. The highest increase in maximum temperature will be observed under the RCP 8.5 scenario, by 1.35oC in 2030s, 1.99°C in 2050s and 3.10°C in 2070s. The minimum temperatures will follow similar patterns but with even higher values. By 2050s, the minimum temperatures for RCPs 4.5 and 8.5 will exceed 1.5°C.

Projected impacts of temperature changes on cattle

Analysis at the landscape level indicates that the Rift Valley and Amboseli Plains will be impacted heavily by further increases in temperature. In the Rift Valley for RCP 2.6, about 62% of the area will be above 30oC and thus highly unproductive for cattle production. The second scenario RCP 4.5, shows a slight variation between 2030s and 2070s from 61% to 66.7% of the area affected. For RCP 8.5, there is a large variation between 2030s and 2070s, with a projected increase by 2070s to 78.3%. In the Amboseli Plains, the highest increment in areas that will be less productive for cattle is projected to occur in RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5. In 2070s for RCP 4.5, the projected area that might not be productive for cattle is around 47.4% and for RCP 8.5 this is almost doubled to 83.7%.

Potential social-economic impacts

It is projected that by 2030, 135,400 livestock keepers in Kajiado County might be affected critically by temperature changes in landscapes where the projected temperatures will be above 30oC. The current number of people in projected areas above 30oC is 78,400 people. This will be about 11.5% of the total county projected population. In terms of livestock, about 74,000 animals or 26% of the total current cattle population might be affected and lose of these animals will cost between Ksh 1.45 and 2.9 billion (USD 14.8–29.6 million). Kajiado County has an annual budget of around Ksh 5.4 billion (2015–2016 budget estimates), illustrating that a Ksh 2.9 billion loss in projected cattle production represents more than 50% of Kajiado County’s budget.

Land tenure and climate change and their potential impact on livestock

The analyses of livestock trends show that Kajiado County has experienced a large decline (42%) in cattle and accompanying high increase (40%) in sheep and goats between 1977 and 2014. This mirrors the wider trend reported for the Kenya ASALs, where the cattle population have decreased by 25% and the sheep and goats population increased by 76% over the same time period (Ogutu et al., 2016). This switch from cattle to small stock may be explained by the changing land tenure and increasing intensification of land use and sedentarisation of pastoralists.

Key Recommendations

The projections indicate that urgent action will need to be taken to build resilience of communities and adapt to the changes in temperature, particularly as noted in the Rift Valley and Amboseli Plains.

The county government, supported by their development partners should establish a County Climate Change Fund (CCCF) in Kajiado to help provide local communities with access to climate finance from county funds and national and international sources. The purpose of setting up the CCCF will be for local communities to have funds they can use to prioritise the type of public investments they need to build their resilience to climate change.

The projected increases in temperature and subsequent impacts on the cattle production in Kajiado have serious implications for livelihoods, and the economy of Kajiado.

Kajiado County needs to fully assess the potential impacts of projected climate change on its livestock (including sheep, goats and camels), wildlife, agriculture (suitable areas and productivity), and genetic preferences (for animals, crops and fodder). An assessment of impacts should also include studies on the economic cost of not taking action or not having appropriate adaptation and mitigation plans.

These investments could, for example, be used to acquire more climate-resilient breeds, commercialise fodder production, enhance water conservation and management, establish livestock marketing infrastructure, livelihood diversification or other interventions communities deem necessary.

The enactment of a law and a policy for setting up the CCCF at the county level will allow local communities to directly access climate finance from both domestic and international sources.

The private sector should also support these investments in the livestock value chain that help to build resilience to drought.

The private sector should also support these investments in the livestock value chain that help to build resilience to drought, for example in establishing new markets for livestock, supporting the development of infrastructure, water, alternative feeds and pasture.

Kajiado County lacks a comprehensive and enforceable land use and land zonation strategy and plan.

This has allowed the haphazard growth and spread of settlements, industries and urban townships in a manner that has made sustainable land management a mounting challenge. This calls for Kajiado County to revisit their land use plans and strategies and to take into considerations climate scenarios since its major resources are livestock and wildlife. The potential impacts of projected climate change might be devastating to both resources and the largely pastoral population. In these plans, vulnerability assessments should be conducted so as to inform the county the possible outcome of each chosen path.

There is an urgent need to develop both short-term and long-term intervention plans for livestock.

This includes mainstreaming climate change within the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) and the County Spatial Plan. CIDPs provide a legislative roadmap for the integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation in policy, planning, budgeting and implementation at the county level.

To facilitate mobility as an adaptation measure used by pastoralists and conservationists in response to increasing climatic stress, the ministries related to livestock, land planning and wildlife conservation at the county, national and regional levels, should put in place mechanisms and legislations to facilitate movements of wildlife and livestock across community, county and national boundaries.

There is need to eliminate physical and socio-political boundaries to animal movement. These would include establishing legal animal migration corridors, crossing points and underpasses in roads and railway lines, and entrenching reciprocal systems for sharing of resources across community, county and national boundaries.

The Ministry of Lands, Urban Planning and Housing in Kajiado County needs to develop and/or fully enforce legislation for monitoring and preventing land fragmentation and enclosure in the county, especially in the livestock and wildlife rich Amboseli Plains and Rift Valley ecozones.

This should include developing mechanisms for protecting existing communal lands and protected areas, such as forests, conservation areas and livestock holding grounds, which are important for conservation, but also double up as places of refuge for pastoralists during times of climatic stress. The ministry should also provide mechanisms for consolidating fragmented parcels into larger land holdings that have better economic and utilisation potential as conservancies or pastoral grazing areas. Large open landscapes are climate change resilient and more conducive for animal production than small enclosed parcels.

KMT Research Brief

Projected Climate Change And Its Potential Impact On Cattle In Kajiado County

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