Livestock experts decry neglect of the key sector
About half of the country’s livestock die before they are economically viable, costing the sector billions of shillings, a new report shows.
The Political Economy Analysis of the Livestock Sector in Kenya, a report compiled by the Kenya Markets Trust, shows the losses are caused by poor disease control coupled with the gross underfunding of the sector and inadequate staff with requisite technical knowledge.
The report notes the sector has been neglected despite the country being the third largest producer of livestock in Africa, after Ethiopia and Botswana.
Kenya’s livestock sector is currently worth over Sh250 billion, with approximately 17.3 million cows, 2.9 million camels, 1.8 million donkeys, 28 million goats, 32 million indigenous chickens, 17 million sheep, 330,000 pigs and 1.8 million beehives.
Livestock PS Harry Kimutai, during an event to unveil the report this week in Nairobi, said that the ministry acknowledges that livestock farmers are facing challenges ranging from low productivity, lack of a reliable market for their products as well as the high cost of production.
“We are focusing on exploring means of reducing the cost of production. These include improving the quality of animal feeds, animal genetic improvement, and livestock disease control to boost access to the international markets,” he said in a statement read on his behalf by the chairman of the Kenya Veterinary Board, Dr Christopher Wanga.
Head of programmes at KMT, Dr Rip Kirby, disclosed that weak coordination between the county and national governments has contributed to the loss of potential investors.
Further, the challenge of sustainable livestock production has hit harder counties in the arid and semi-arid areas.
“If the sector does not address the confusion and ignorance within the supply chain, then Kenya will lose more investors and business partners,” said Dr Kirby. Mandera West MP Adan Haji said the livestock sector had been side-lined.
“Livestock, particularly, those kept by pastoralists, have been given a blackout as far as policy and development are concerned,” he said.
Trans Nzoia Agriculture executive Mary Nzomo noted that the livestock sector has suffered historical injustice where some drought-prone counties have been neglected.
“The focus has been on the high potential areas and very little on the frontier counties,” she adds.
According to the 2019 Economic Survey, the livestock sector contributes to 12 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 40 per cent to the agricultural GDP. The sector has also employed about 10 million Kenyans throughout its supply chain.
-Anita Chepkoech and Sarah Nanjala
App to offer farmers, consumers information on food unveiled
A new app that will provide farmers and consumers with real-time data on food supply, crops to grow and their nutritional value has been unveiled.
Dubbed Ustawi, the app is an initiative of the University of Nairobi’s agriculture department and researchers from Western Sydney University.
Prof Athula Ginige, one of the developers of the app, said it is an initiative to employ proven knowledge and agribusiness ecosystems to ensure the country is food-secure.
According to Prof Ginige of Western Sydney University, while there have been great strides towards ensuring food security in African countries, lack of real-time information is undermining the initiative.
“There is a lot of valuable information about agriculture that is required for food security to be achieved. We need to get that information to the people in its basic form, telling them what to do at what point.”
The app, which has been in use in India and Sri Lanka, enables users to make informed choices on what to grow in line with the supply and demand.
“Similarly, the app taps into the aggregated data to inform the farmer on varieties of similar crops and the cost of various produce at any given time,” says Prof Ginige.
It is estimated that over 50 million children in the world continue to be threatened by malnourishment and are at high risk of mortality and poor health.
“Through this app, farmers will benefit from information about nutritious crops that they can engage in and their nutritional value,” said Andre Renzaho, a professor of humanitarian and development studies at Western Sydney University.
He noted that the app can play a major role in reviving small grain farming in East Africa not only as a diet but also as a mitigation strategy against non-communicable diseases.
Veterinary board to enhance inspection of meat
The Kenya Veterinary Board (KVB) has called for enhanced inspection of meat and other animal products to protect consumers against rising cases of food contamination.
Usually conducted at slaughterhouses during livestock slaughtering, meat inspection remains crucial in ensuring consumers access safe and healthy products.
Dr Christopher Wanga, KVB chairman, said they are establishing regional offices across seven counties to boost meat inspections.
The board will set up offices at the Coast, North Eastern, Isiolo, Nyeri, Kericho and Turkana, said Wanga, adding that this will help them intervene when need be.
Dr Wanga added that KVB is amending the Veterinary surgeons and veterinary paraprofessional Act to help get rid of quacks.
The amendment, according to Dr Wanga, seeks to ensure all veterinary professionals including those running clinics, lecturing or working with the government are genuine.
He urged public health officers to sample and check meat sold in various outlets to ensure it remains safe.
“Our key role is to ensure that the individuals providing vet services across the country are regulated, but I must admit there is a huge shortage of vet officers across the country, which is a challenge,” he said.