Somewhere in Saudi Arabia at this very moment, people are devouring Kenyan beef. In 2014, the Saudi government lifted a ban on Kenyan beef products. Although it is not clear what percentage of beef comes from stolen cattle, I dare suggest that commercialisation of cattle rustling is responsible for a percentage of live cattle and beef exports to Gulf States like Saudi Arabia.
The government needs to pursue this line of thought. If it makes sense, then steps must be taken to detach the link between cattle rustling and the beef market. As long as this link exists, no amount of peace talks and militarised incursions into Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Pokot and Turkana will stem the conflict. I further suggest that county governments of these four counties should team up with the national government to undertake an unprecedented authentic monetisation of the hundreds of thousands of cattle that graze in this vast terrain. This undertaking could borrow a leaf from the Kenya Wildlife Service regular census of wildlife. This counting should, however, not be in isolation but as part of the 3Cs of sustainability that we conceptualised at the Green Africa Foundation – Count, Cost and Customer.
Regular counting of the cattle will help to appreciate the full extent of the immense cattle resource in their possession. Such counting should be as accurate as possible since it will be akin to elaborate stocktaking. In entrepreneurship, stocktaking actually makes it more difficult for stock to be stolen since the stock is known. Besides, stocktaking also helps in ascertaining current value and growth rate. After counting the cattle, it will be possible to determine the second C – Cost. What will be the cost of keeping the cattle safe and in optimal state? Pastoralist cattle are the perennial vulnerable victims of the recurrent droughts in their regions. Twenty first century livestock rearing demands that we shield these cattle from either being stolen by cattle rustlers or by drought. Such shielding however, costs money, not political platitudes and roadside declarations.
The final C needed in the four counties is Customer. Although beef will always be a lucrative product, there needs to be a direct link between the pastoralists and the customers, whether in Nairobi or overseas.
For this to happen pastoralist capacities must be built and this is where county governments must rise to the occasion. With the support of the national government, they should not be expansionist but should instead open up the remotest parts of the counties to infrastructural development and educational opportunities.
In the US state of Wyoming, there are 2.4 cattle per person. That is why livestock production in the state is valued at Sh100 billion. This should be the reality of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Pokot and Turkana. Not cattle rustling and death from both famine and bullets. “Green money” is tangible therefore let’s think green and act green!