Food security remains a key challenge in Kajiado County, with the majority of households facing acute food shortages. Climate change, land degradation, and population growth have affected food production in the region, leading to severe food insecurity but the County's livestock sector has continued to hold the key to solving the food security puzzle, leading to improved nutrition and ultimately, the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.
The county which is located in the southern part of Kenya is known for its vast savannah plains, hills, and valleys and it is home to Maasai pastoralists, who have preserved their cultural practices and way of life for centuries. Livestock production is the primary economic activity in the county, with over 70% of households keeping livestock. The Maasai community has traditionally relied on livestock, particularly cattle, goats, and sheep, for their livelihoods as it provides a source of income, food, and continue to use it to enhance food security in the region.
Zebu cattle, Galla goats, and Red Maasai sheep are just a few of the livestock varieties found in the area, but they are not as productive as rare types like Holstein-Friesian cattle or Dorper sheep. The herders in the region have been working to introduce high-yielding breeds, leading to increased animal productivity, and resulting in higher milk and meat output.
Ensuring that animals are in a good state of health has been a critical aspect of improving livestock productivity in the region. Diseases such as East Coast fever, foot-and-mouth disease, and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia are common in the county, leading to significant losses in livestock. Through the availability of vaccines, deworming drugs, and other veterinary services, there has been a significant reduction in the incidence of these diseases, leading to high productivity, and in turn, food security is enhanced.
By investing in drought-resistant feed and fodder, particularly during the dry season when pasture is scarce, animal owners in the county have helped improve animal nutrition. This has been through the cultivation of high-yielding forage crops such as Napier grass, which is suitable for livestock feed. Through proper feed management practices, they have continued to ensure that their animals receive the right nutrients.
Improved market access is crucial in enhancing livestock productivity and Kajiado is one of the counties with a significant livestock market, particularly in Ilbisill town, where pastoralists occasionally sell their livestock. However, market prices sometimes do not favor pastoralists leading to incurred losses. They have been working with market actors to establish a well-organized market that provides fair prices to herders. Value addition, such as meat processing and packaging has also contributed to an increased value of their products.
Pastoralists have the potential to solve the food security puzzle with their vast livestock resources. With the right interventions, Kajiado County can become a model for sustainable livestock production and food security.Top of Form