Livestock Development - Solutions from East Africa

The story of a pastoralist in Kenya is not a particularly encouraging one. With four major droughts in the past ten years, the pastoral areas of the country have the highest levels of poverty, the lowest human development indices and the lowest access to basic services as compared to other areas. (from Farm Africa’s Website) The average pastoralist, who makes a living out of livestock and travels from place to place looking for water, is further at risk since they are located in remote dryland areas. Climate and environmental factors pose significant threats to their livestock, and thereby their incomes

Unfortunately, it is rare for livestock to be on the development agenda. Most people, who work in the area of rural and farm development, focus far more intensely on crops and food production. However, farms have a whole array of activities which contribute holistically towards farmer prosperity – and livestock is a key element here. From ploughing to animal manure, livestock contribute immensely towards the well-being of a farm. 

At the same time, livestock is not generally seen as an asset, as opportunities to convert livestock to cash are few and far in between.  Pastoralists also tend to concentrate their wealth in the form of cattle, and this carries significant risks – in terms of disease, drought and impact on markets and environment through overstocking and overgrazing. Further exacerbating this risk is the fact that veterinarians for pastoral animals are sparse. When 70% of the population living below the poverty line depend partially on livestock, this fact becomes crucial, considering the fact that 25% of livestock die each year from preventable and epidemic diseases.

For Christie Peacock, this then became the central problem that she set out to address. Drawing on more than thirty years of experience in getting services to farmers in remote places, Christie has developed a comprehensive model to extend veterinary and other livestock services to farmers in Kenya.  Through the franchisee system, Christie is creating a network of branded centres, which she calls Sidai Livestock Service Centres, through which she delivers both products and services for the well-being of livestock.  These centres, manned by qualified vets, source products only from recognised dealers and brands ensuring quality of products and services for livestock in the areas. 

In a country with only 7000 vets, who often prefer the greener pastures of cities and peri-urban areas; the livestock technician serves as the de-facto vet for many farmers. For Christie, the livestock technician becomes someone who is slightly more qualified and is able to handle much of the work that a vet is supposed to do. Although there are restrictions (the livestock technician can work only under the supervision of a vet), they become an important part of Christie’s supply chain. The crucial thing is to recognise the relationship between the livestock technician and the vet and this made Christie structure her model around this link. Through processes of decentralisation and perhaps sub-franchising, Christie is aiming at using livestock technicians to serve farmers at a more personalised level, rather than having one vet serving an population of 2000 farmers. 

Thus, the concept behind Christie’s stores goes much beyond that of a simple ‘shop.’ The Sidai Livestock Service Centres serve as the one-stop shop for farmers to buy products like feed and drugs at affordable prices as well as benefit from services like training and workshops, better information and financial services like insurance and payment plans. The Livestock Service Centres becomes Christie’s entry into a whole system built around better options for livestock in rural Kenya.

India and Kenya share some profound similarities in the area of livestock development. “The quality of products is more or less at the same level and the Indian experience in antibiotic resistance for livestock and humans have a lot of learnings for us,” Christie highlights. There is a shortage of qualified people in both countries and a strong need for better curriculum for the veterinary profession in both countries.” Additionally, both countries have significant pastoral communities – the importance of livestock for many rural and agricultural populations in India is unquestionable. 

Thus, several areas of learning emerge for entrepreneurs from both countries. “I’m very interested in learning from India, both in terms of practice but also in sourcing technology.” She has been exploring the use of technology for both livestock development as well as from a communications point of view.  Another area of knowledge, she points out, is in the area of marketing. Farmers need help in marketing their products and there is a dearth of solutions in that area. Finally, she sees the cooperative model has been the powerhouse for social and economic change in rural India – which is something she finds lacking in the African rural landscape, and a potential source of knowledge for African Social Enterprise. 

By Sanjana Janardhanan