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First Public Lecture on Building a Competitive Livestock Industry and reshaping the sector in Kenya through value chains

  Nov 20, 2020

Considering that the livestock sector employs close to 50% of Kenya’s agricultural labour force and is also a primary source of livelihoods for over 6 million pastoralists and agro-pastoralist communities in the country’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), its importance to the Kenyan economy was brought to the fore during a Public Lecture held this week on Building a Competitive Livestock Industry and reshaping the sector in Kenya through value chains by Strathmore University Business School (SBS) in partnership with the President’s Delivery Unit (PDU).

As the first Public Lecture in the series entitled “Post-COVID 19: What the Big 4 Agenda can do for Kenya and Africa,” the session facilitated a dialogue for better coordination between the government and private sector in developing and implementing transformative strategies geared towards increasing the productivity, profitability, employment and safety of the meat industry based on the new norm.

It also focused on areas of potential investment by the Private Sector since the Big 4 Agenda is hinged on Public Private Partnerships (PPP). By bringing together all stakeholders across the Livestock Value Chain, the Public Lecture brought out the potential of the sector in Kenya’s economic growth, opportunities and challenges and how policies and innovations can transform the sector towards livestock production efficiency in the 21st Century.

As the keynote speaker during the Public Lecture, Dr. Fred Matiang’i the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Interior and coordination of Government said that for Kenya to realise the competitive potential of the Livestock Sector locally and regionally, “we need to develop a culture where there is close relationship between policy and politics.”

Giving an example of the government’s intervention to transfer the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) to the Ministry of Defence, Dr Matiang’i said that the takeover has enabled the entity to clear 256 Million shillings debts owed to livestock farmers. Additionally, a further KSh.150 Million was allocated to clear other general suppliers’ debt in this financial year. This intervention served the mutual interests of the two organizations since the military is the largest client of the KMC and therefore had a stake in the improved efficiency of its management. “The delivery of livestock to KMC since the military takeover has grown by 28%”, said Dr. Matiang’i.

In response to outbreaks of trade sensitive diseases, Dr. Matiang’i explained that currently the government is developing Disease Free Zoning facilities in Kenya. Considering that the country’s disease situation has created a barrier for trade leading to loss of potential revenue and foreign exchange, the Bachuma Livestock Export Zone (LEZ) will be able to offer livestock screening services, to ensure animal health control in livestock product exports.

Furthermore, in order to meet the demand for livestock products in and out of Kenya, the Livestock Breeding Programme’s mandate will provide a steady supply of well-bred livestock of early maturing animals. This has been achieved through community breeding schemes such as breeding farms and artificial insemination efforts. Thus far the government has introduced breeding and multiplication farms in Kimose (Baringo County), Nomotio (Kajiado County), Nasukuta (WestPokot County), and Narok County.

Despite the fact that Kenya is 3rd in Africa in livestock population and there is tremendous untapped potential in the leather sector, Dr. Matiang’i also stressed the importance of value chain in relation to hides and skins across the country, “The value addition here still remains a key challenge. However, the Government has made considerable strides with the Kenya Leather Development Council. A key example is the Ewaso Ngiro Leather and Tannery in Narok County to support the pastoral community.”

Bringing the perspective of academia, Dr. George Njenga, the Executive Dean of SBS reinforced the importance of partnership and the use of evidenced based policy approaches. “It is time that we respect the process of thinking through scientifically and connecting to results, these two things, scientific process and results is very core.’’ He added, “The infrastructure that is being put in place to set up a scientific center with an administrative board should have a triple helix approach: Academia, Government and the Private Sector players. This will help to inform government decisions in the future by providing informed ideas that are well grounded in data.”

Mr. Harry Kimtai, Principal Secretary for the State Department for Livestock said that the most important intervention that the Government has to make in the Livestock Sector is the development of a proper regulatory framework. According to him the sector has long been operating under an outdated regulatory framework which has not been updated in line with the current constitution. He asserted that this issue has now been addressed, “The new policies which have been developed such as the National Livestock policy and the Veterinary policy published in 2020 are now ready to guide the sector.”

He further elaborated that the Kenya Dairy industry also had an outdated regulatory framework. New regulations have been developed to address the advancements in the industry. The dairy industry contributes 4% to the Country’s GDP. Kenya’s total milk production is estimated at 5.2 Billion Litres with 75% being that of cow milk. Generally, milk production in Kenya is small-holder driven and therefore aggregating these smallholder farmers into Cooperative Dairy Farms (CODAFs) leads to economies of scale, higher productivity, better quality of milk and increased profitability and incomes to producers.

Mr Kimtai said that the government is ensuring that the sector is able to respond to the domestic livestock production for both local markets and international markets and that the sector players are able to see available opportunities. He explained that the Livestock bill will now improve the existing fragmented laws and has been submitted to the Attorney General and is awaiting publication. The bill will represent the government institutions that were not properly anchored to the law before such as the Kenya Animal Genetic Resource Agency and other training institutions that support the Livestock sub sector.

Discussing the cost of feedlots, the P.S Kimtai said that the bill will also improve regulation of the sector by introducing a Livestock Inputs and Products Regulatory Authority. A Livestock Products and Marketing Board will also help to support livestock farmers to market their products. The National Livestock Regulatory Board will therefore help to regulate all other activities within the sector.

Globally countries are investing heavily in genetics and breeding programs and the Kenyan government is following suit. The Livestock Research Organization has been created to deal with livestock research and breeding programs. A Livestock Masterplan is being developed to improve this process.

In order to cushion the pastoral community from the ravaging effects of drought, the Feedlots Development Programme was established to ensure animals are well fed to reach desired maturity levels and protect animals from diseases and death. The Government, through the State Department of Livestock is embarking on the investment of 50 feedlots, investment in eight beef breeding schemes, development of 10,000 acres of high-quality pasture and fodder plots. So far, 14 Feedlot sites have been identified in government land and 7 in private holdings: 5 in Laikipia, 1 in Garissa and 1 in Kajiado. However, the lack of a framework by the National Land Commission that enables the private use of government land by private investors poses an ongoing challenge.

Dr. Maurice Cheregony, CEO, Rhoteach Limited one of the panelists during the session talked of the effect of climate change on the sector and the importance of capacity building to meet  market demand. Dr. Christie Peacock, Chairman of Sidai highlighted the importance of privatising the vaccine sector since there is high level of livestock mortality in Kenya. According to her, Kenya loses over 30% of livestock every year, “We lose KShs 1 billion which can be prevented through vaccination.”

Representing the youth, Elisha Bwatuti, a Dairy Farmer, Agricultural Technologist and a Director of Shamba-Intel Africa Limited, said that there is little training in the sector and this does not encourage the youth to see it as an opportunity for job creation. “The message being communicated is that the sector is a retirement package,” he said.

The panelists which represented the private sector and academia, explored how the feedlots cost can be reduced to help farmers and what incentives can be given to the Private sector in this area. How extension services can be empowered to give quality services to farmers such as access to watersheds by small-scale farmers.

In conclusion, the public lecture brought out the increasing market demand in the livestock sector and how it affects 2 million Kenyans directly. Furthermore, the livestock sector requires a review that provides concise data and information about the nature of current and emerging vegetation, land and water degradation problems and their effects, including greenhouse gas issues and there is a pressing need to develop capacity of young people to take the sector to the next level.

Article by Shailja Sharma, Executive Fellow

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