The livestock sub-sector is one of the most crucial sectors of Kenya’s economy.
Sixty per cent of households in Kenya keep livestock. The livestock sub-sector is a source of employment to many, with about half of the people who work in the agricultural sector being employed either directly or indirectly in the livestock sub-sector. Further, it contributes to 17 per cent of the agricultural GDP and five per cent of the country’s GDP.
The country has a huge demand for livestock-sourced products which has been driven by a growing middle class and the growth of urbanisation. With projections indicating that the country’s population is expected to grow to 96 million by the year 2050, the demand for foods sourced from livestock is expected to increase exponentially over the next three decades.
Currently, meat remains one of the favourite animal-sourced foods among Kenyans as recent research points out that three-quarters of the country’s meat is consumed in Nairobi and Mombasa.
Livestock production systems in Kenya
There are various agro-ecological zones that support livestock production systems in Kenya. These zones are characterised by varying amounts of rainfall, soil types and altitudes. Livestock keeping is the main source of income for over a quarter of the Kenyan population living in arid and semi-arid lands with 80 per cent of the country’s landmass classified as arid and semi-arid land (ASAL).
Ten per cent of Kenya’s livestock is kept in ranches. Estimates indicate that there are about 250 publicly and privately-owned ranches in the country. Sixty per cent of the livestock in the country is kept in arid and semi-arid lands.
It is estimated that 90 per cent of the meat that is consumed in the country is produced by pastoralist communities living in ASALs. One in every ten livestock produced in Kenya is kept under semi-intensive production systems, while one out of every ten livestock is zero grazed.
The threat of climate change on livestock production in ASALs
Given that a significant portion of the country’s meat is produced in arid and semi-arid lands, the threat of climate change on these lands presents a threat to the country’s food security. With 60 per cent of the people living in the ASALs considered poor, the threat of climate change threatens to sink them deeper into poverty as it will affect their main source of income.
Research indicates that about two million animals risk being lost. Losses amounting to about USD 630 billion could occur over the next few decades due to losses in milk, meat and animal production.
In the past 30 years, cattle population in ASALs has declined by about 26 per cent, with climate change cited as one of the factors that has contributed to this decline. Estimates indicate that by 2030, rain-fed agricultural productivity in Africa will drop by half.
As of today, it is estimated that livestock consumes about 255 million litres of water per year. With an expected increase in livestock numbers, about 650 million litres will be required annually by 2050. ASALs face the constant threat of water scarcity, a situation that will be made worse by climate change. Water scarcity would also affect the quality and quantity of pasture that is available. Droughts have been intensifying in the past two decades resulting in an increase in livestock mortalities, a situation which is expected to get worse in the next few decades. As land degradation intensifies, there is a likelihood that conflict among communities living in ASALs will increase.
What needs to be done?
There is a need for climate adaptation measures that will sustain the livelihoods of people and livestock production systems in the ASALs. There are opportunities for implementation of climate-resilient economic activities with a focus on the livestock value chain but the realisation of those opportunities is subject to the availability of an enabling environment. Such an environment can be realised through collaboration between the public and private sectors. This environment would enhance turning research and innovative technologies into a reality that will benefit communities.
Practical example: KMT/ PRISE partnership in research and stakeholder engagement
KMT/ PRISE partnership was born out of a need to engage key stakeholders in Kenya in efforts to develop robust climate adaptation policies. Research findings from PRISE point to a need for the integration of semi-arid lands economies into national climate-smart development plans. As a result of the partnership between KMT and PRISE, the following steps have been realised towards this goal:
Laikipia County: KMT/ PRISE brought together a wide range of stakeholders in order to help them appreciate the importance of the adaptation of pastoralists’ households to climate change. As a result of this, KMT was invited to work with the Amaya Triangle Initiative, an initiative that is geared towards introducing commercial livestock farming using modern technologies such as feedlots to livestock farmers in ASALs. The initiative brings together the following counties: Isiolo, Samburu, Baringo, Laikipia and West Pokot.
Narok County: The engagement of KMT/ PRISE team with the county government of Narok has had an impact on policy. The county government worked with the team towards the revision of the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) to incorporate PRISE findings that touch on the potential of livestock production in light of climate-smart measures.
Drafting of National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP 2018-2022)
As a result of the strong working relationship that exists between KMT/PRISE team, KEPSA and the Ministry of Environment, the technical team requested for PRISE review of the first two chapters of the plan which cover climate change situation analysis and projections. The team’s contribution was an acknowledgement by the ministry.
Provision of technical expertise in National Wildlife, Conservation and Management Strategy (NWCMS)
Wildlife in Kenya exist alongside livestock hence the need for wildlife management strategies that are cognisant of this. NWCMS was an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife with inputs from other players in the sector. PRISE researchers were part of the strategy synthesis team which met with various players in the sector and also gathered views from sector participants in all the 47 counties. The strategy has been hailed for promoting co-existence of wildlife and livestock in SALs.
Empirical evidence of how the livestock population in Kenya will be affected by climate change is necessary for the development of actionable climate-smart policies. Cooperation among the stakeholders creates an enabling environment for implementation of the climate-smart livestock policies.