Pastoralists in northern Kenya’s remote rangelands must trek their cattle long, dangerous routes to access markets where middlemen earn most of the profit. In this environment, there is safety in numbers—large herds are insurance against drought, disease and low prices.
But with the demand for grass and the frequency of drought increasing, the land is under siege. There is not enough good grass to go around for cattle and wildlife. Skinny cows net lower prices at market. As wildlife numbers decline, so do tourism revenues. Livestock, wildlife and pastoralists are struggling.
Mobilizing the Market
But our partners, the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Conservancy, have engineered a solution that brings the market to the herders. In exchange for meeting stringent grazing, security and other community management standards, herders gain access to a mobile market, which travels to qualifying conservancies and buys cattle for eventual sale to Nairobi. For every cow that NRT purchases, the conservancy receives a fee that is used to support education and healthcare.
Through better grazing standards and healthier grasslands, herders produce healthier cows and earn higher prices. At the same time, the healthy grass attracts animals – and wildlife numbers increase.
The program also generates income for the pastoralist communities. During 2012 more than 1,300 cattle were sourced from participating communities for a total purchase price of $500,000. During the same period the program sold 1,170 cattle and generated $606,000.
Scaling Up a Proven Model
To meet demand, we must extend the program to an additional eight conservancies. We need to increase the program’s capacity so that it’s equipped to purchase and process 10,000 head of cattle—a nearly ten-fold increase from today—to benefit roughly 23,000 people each year.
To do this we are working with NRT and partners to build out the program’s existing infrastructure (cattle transport and processing equipment, staff, technology). We are also growing funding used to purchase cattle from pastoralists. The funding is replenished when cattle are sold in Nairobi, reused the next time the mobile market makes its rounds and revenues help offset program costs.
As we buy more cows, more people and more wildlife will benefit.
What’s Good for the Cow is Good for the Elephant
We’ve spent 7 years testing this approach and we have proven results:
- All 11 participating conservancies have recorded net increases in wildlife populations – in many conservancies even elephant numbers are on the rise
- 760,000 acres of grassland important for livestock and wildlife is now healthier through improved management
- More than $1.4 million has been paid to nearly 2,000 pastoralists and benefitted nearly 14,000 people
- Communities have collected roughly $80,000 in tax revenues
- Communities earned roughly $500,000 in just one year through tourism revenues
See how the Dobberpuhl family’s seven-year, zero-interest $7 million loan is helping to scale-up a proven livestock purchase program that provides pastoralists with improved market access in exchange for their efforts to manage their lands in ways that are good for their communities, their cattle and also wildlife.