What Kenya can learn from Botswana's livestock industry

Habiba Jattani with cattle at a livestock market in Isiolo County. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

Reducing direct government’s influence and developing a data monitoring tool have been identified as some of the strategies that can help the country reap big from the livestock sector.

A report by a public policy think tank - the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) has also called on improving access to finance through public-private partnerships (PPP), which will enable livestock farmers, particularly in the arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) to access credit.

These interventions have been recommended in the Kenya Economic Report 2022 released in December 2022 by Kippra. The report draws comparisons between Kenya’s livestock industry and that of Botswana, which it identifies as resilient and well managed through the value chain.

While both countries are similar to how they rear their cattle–through communities in the ASAL areas, the report notes that Botswana seems to have gotten it right in the beef sector.

For example, while the Kenyan government is busy urging pastoralists to seek alternative economic activities whenever a drought or flood occurs that destroys their livelihood, Botswana has a different approach. The report documents that Botswana has integrated a holistic approach by providing free pastures.

“The country provides its livestock with supplementary feeding for their survival in drought years and compensate for the low nutrient levels of the Kalahari soils in the fragile ecosystems,” the report reads.

Botswana also protects the country’s livestock genetic resources and provides significant credit to stakeholders along the livestock value chain and has several livestock insurance products through PPP.

When it comes to processing and cold storage, Botswana is considered to be ahead of Kenya as the country has cutting and processing plants for production of partitioned and processed meat products.

Just like Kenya, processing is done by respective meat commissions and a number of licensed private processors.

“The country (Kenya) has not realised its potential in processing livestock and related livestock products such as hides and skins,” the report says. Both countries as well have made considerable efforts in monitoring livestock resources, with Botswana being several strides ahead.

The country is implementing the Livestock Identification and Trace-back System, which enhance disease management.

This is while in Kenya, the development of the Animal Identification and Traceability strategy and regulations is ongoing.

Kippra notes that while the livestock industry plays a key role in steering growth of the agricultural sector, supporting millions of livelihoods, especially in the Asals, its potential is curtailed by shocks and stressors.

Quality pasture

Itnotes that drought occurrences in the country have increased in frequency and intensity over the years and their episodes adversely affect the availability of water for livestock. It also reduces quantity and quality pasture, reduces livestock body condition and value, and lowers production of livestock products.

This leads to loss of livestock and changing patterns, distribution and severity of invasive species, pests and livestock diseases. “Other than drought occurrences, livestock production areas simultaneously face risks to floods, which have increased in frequency over the years,” the report reads.

The desert locust invasion also impacted the livestock sector as it affected majorly the Asal regions, leading to acute food insecurity. “The growing livestock and human population and their interactions there with, coupled with limited investments in livestock health services pose significant livestock disease threats in the country. In turn, highly contagious livestock diseases are associated with various direct and indirect adverse effects,” it adds.

In response to these challenges, Kenya can learn from Botswana by building the capacity of farmers and extension workers in protecting livestock genetic resources; business management and implementation of strategies including the identification and traceability system.

“Enhanced partnerships to reduce the high degree of direct government involvement in the livestock industry and allow for sufficient competitive pressure for the industry to operate efficiently and get innovative,” the report reads.

There can also be input subsidisation during disasters and increased fodder production in higher rainfall areas to support livestock production in stress periods. There should be efforts as well to create and strengthen livestock producers’ associations and cooperatives for more organised service provision such as access to inputs, veterinary services or selling livestock.

For livestock animal disease control and prevention, the report recommends enhancing access to veterinary services that are effective in terms of traceability and compliance with market requirements.

Livestock can also be scanned for diseases on site and have licensed washing and disinfection sites for livestock trucks during transport.

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