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. Only with sufficient grazing management can there be 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 2015, 2,828 head of cattle were sourced from participating communities, which provided $762,400 USD in income to 1,546 households and $72,400 USD in revenue to nine conservancies.
Scaling Up a Proven Model
The Livestock to Markets program has been continuing to grow each year. Cattle purchased from communities increased more than 100 percent from 2012 to 2015, and income to pastoralists in the program increased by over $108,000 USD from 2014 to 2015 despite low rainfall. We've done this by working with NRT and partners to build out the program's existing infrastructure, such as cattle transport and processing equipment, staff and 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 more program costs.
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 four-fold increase from today—to benefit roughly 23,000 people each year.
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.