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. Cattle purchases were up 60 percent in 2015 from the previous year, putting approximately $971,100 USD directly into the hands of 2,324 households. In addition, about $89,100 USD in livestock levies went to support community projects in 12 conservancies.
Scaling Up a Proven Model
The Livestock to Markets program has been continuing to grow each year. Between 2011 and 2015, income to pastoralists participating in the Livestock to Markets program more than tripled, from approximately $302,400 USD to $971,100 USD. 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
- More than 5 million acres of grassland important for wildlife is being managed via a grazing plan designed to balance the needs of livestock and wildlife.
- 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
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.