Kenya hosts high-level meeting on livestock sector challenges

Participants during the ongoing meeting. [Courtesy]

Kenya is this week hosting a high-level meeting meant to adopt strategies to address the current Africa's feed and fodder crisis.

In a meeting that kicked off in Nairobi today bringing together a host of experts from the continent, the five-day Resilient African Feed and Fodder Systems (RAFFS) Project aims at driving an ‘African narrative that helps to make better evidence-based decisions for countries.’

African Union-InterAfrican for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) Director Dr Huyam Salih said the three crises commonly referred to as “the three C’s” exposed Africa’s vulnerability, leading to eroded livelihoods, loss of incomes, and driven up prices of highly nutritive livestock sourced foods making them inaccessible to sections of the population that need them most.

According to Dr Salih, livestock feeding constitutes 60-70 percent of the total cost of livestock production.

“The recent drought in the Greater Horn of Africa region resulted in a massive loss of 9.5 million livestock, valued at over 2 billion USD,” she said in her opening remarks.

She said the loss includes invaluable livestock genetic resources developed over decades, serving as a key factor for livelihoods and incomes, especially for pastoralists and smallholders who contribute over 80 percent of meat and milk production in the region.

The impact Salih said extended to downstream stakeholders and retailing businesses, resulting in substantial losses.

The RAFFS Project was rolled out in January 2023 and has focused on understanding the situation of the effect of the global COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the feed and fodder sector.

The project, which is jointly funded by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, specifically focuses on Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda and Zimbabwe due to ‘their unique contexts and challenges.’

Salih said the project has since conducted a Continental Survey that sought to engage stakeholders in the Feed and Fodder Sector. 

Out of the fifty-five AU Member States, forty-four (44) participated, giving a continental outlook and opportunity to also draw out regional differences and issues. 

“The insights gathered have been invaluable in shaping our understanding of the feed and fodder landscape across Africa,” Dr Salih said.

“The RAFFS Project represents a means to transform challenges into opportunities, to strengthen the feed and fodder sector, and ultimately contribute to achieving agricultural sector goals.”

By December 2022, Government authorities in Kenya said the drought had killed over 200 elephants, nearly 400 zebras and more than 500 wildebeests among other several species.

The RAFFS project will among other things assess the role of women in the feed and fodder sector in Africa.

“It is known that a single dollar invested in women will release revenue of three dollars in the economy because women are the mothers, the one to take care of the kids and feed the family,” she said.

To break the cycle of poverty and inequalities, AU-IBAR has been advocating for the development and implementation of policies and legal frameworks that create a wider array of opportunities for women in the feed and fodder sector- which will lead to their economic empowerment for the inclusive and sustainable development of the continent.

One of the key challenges that has been identified as a key constraint to participating in the livestock sector is the bottleneck of the poor access to appropriate and sustainable financing mechanisms that address women’s felt needs tailored to their capacities.

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