Livestock is a significant part of the global economy, contributing to economic growth, poverty reduction and nutrition. The sector contributes 40% of global agricultural output and supports the livelihoods and food security of almost 1.3 billion people, including 500 million pastoralists. For these pastoralists, livestock provide income and employment, a store of wealth, resilience to shocks, food security, in addition to holding cultural significance.
Whilst livestock is globally important, it is fundamental to Kenya’s economy. The sector contributes between 10% to 13% of national GDP and employs up to 50% of the agricultural labour force. The importance of livestock is set to further rise as growing incomes lead to higher meat consumption. For example, demand for beef in Kenya is expected to increase by over 170% between 2010 and 2050.
Production of meat products is predominantly through pastoralists, who own 70% of national livestock valued at USD 834 million. This trend is set to continue, with smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa expected to remain the primary producers of livestock until at least 2050. In Kenya, pastoralism is mainly in arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) regions, which make up 80% of Kenya’s landmass, and where income levels are amongst the lowest in the country.
Livestock Identification and Traceability (LITS)
Livestock Identification and Traceability Systems (LITS) are increasingly being used to support animal production, trade, and public health interventions throughout the world. Animal identification is the use of unique identifiers and registration systems to identify animals individually or collectively by their epidemiologic units, while livestock traceability refers to ability to follow an animal or group of animals during all stages of its life.(OIE 2017).
Multiple livestock identification methods including ear notching, hot iron branding, and conventional ear tags have been used over time but these have evolved to electronic identification systems such as the radio-frequency identification (RFID) boluses and RFID ear tags (Bowling et al. 2008; Moreki et al. 2012).
The contribution of animal identification to disease surveillance and food safety can only be realized if identification initiatives are linked to traceability. Traceability systems can allow animals or their products to be followed through market channels back to farms of origin.
Numerous third-party researches have documented benefits of LITS in African contexts. Countries include Ethiopia, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland. One study, from the University of Pretoria that focused on Swaziland, used secondary documentation, findings from a PhD case study and interviews to conclude LITS has a direct effect on the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the rural poor, due to increase in selling prices, reduced thefts and increase in productivity.
Introducing LITS will mean pastoralists, including women and youth, can prove ownership, quality and health of livestock, and access finance. With this, economic opportunities are significantly improved, and numerous, independent studies present clear evidence of the impact of LITS.
Implementation in African nations has shown:
- Increased pastoralists’ incomes and access to markets.
- Reduced risk of animal disease outbreaks.
- Lower instances of theft.
- Improved quality of meat and consumer confidence.
Our Work in LITS
Kenya Markets Trust (KMT) have been involved in the development of a LITS since 2017, when we partnered to pilot the approach with 70,000 livestock in Laikipia County. The pilot demonstrated the value of adopting LITS, and resulted in some ranches securing contracts with premium buyers (for example Tuskys supermarket contracted Northern Rangelands Trust to supply traceable livestock).
One significant lesson was the need for a regulatory framework before LITS could be adopted at scale. Since then, KMT has worked closely with the State Department of Livestock (SDL) to develop a policy framework, now pending final cabinet approval, and laying foundations for a national LITS to be established.
Our achievements in the Livestock Sector
Since KMT entered the livestock sector in 2013, we have contributed to significant growth and poverty reduction. We are embedded in the places we work and are active in 33 counties, including 21 ASAL counties. Our most recently reported developmental impact includes:
- 222,445 households with increased income
- USD 78,700,342 of additional income
- USD 23,908,928 of investments mobilized
More widely, KMT has contributed to system-level changes. Pastoralists are better supported by vets, ranches are providing finishing services to communities, input manufacturers are targeting pastoralists, and exporters are supplying livestock from rural areas.