Kenyan pastoralists: how changing livestock markets could reduce conflict

Over nine million Kenyans are pastoralists out of a total population of 50 million. Together they hold livestock worth over US$1 billion. Livestock is their source of food, health, and wealth.

But livestock also causes conflicts. In some Kenyan communities, clashes between farmers and pastoralists erupt due to the scramble for fodder, water and space. Farms encroach on rangelands while livestock invade farms.

These complex conflicts, which are rooted in history, respond to politics, and peak during droughts. The year 2021 was particularly fragile.

State and non-state actors engage in peace building, conflict resolution and reconciliation. What if they include livestock markets in peace-building? Could they mitigate conflicts between farmers and herders?

We believe they can.

We conducted research to understand how a different way of valuing the price of livestock could contribute to peace building. We did our research among livestock buyers in the Kerio Valley, Kenya, an area known for protracted communal conflicts.

The mechanisms influencing livestock pricing in Kenya have been studied extensively. In traditional price building, livestock values are determined through ad hoc negotiations.

But there is another system: the use of quality-based payments. Here, the price of an animal is determined through its weight, breed and health. Such systematic grading of animals is widely used in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

In our view, quality-based payments for livestock would set off a virtuous cycle. Firstly, it would lead to premium prices for livestock. This, in turn, could encourage pastoralists to reduce herd sizes, improve animal husbandry and increase forage demand. The end result would be farmers producing forage and trading in meat, milk and manure with herders. More forage would minimise the pressure on rangelands, improve animal health, lowers animal mortality during the dry season, and stabilise prices.

Read more here

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