Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (1) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Potential of pastoralist groups to manage small-stock marketing projects: A case study of groups in Farakoren and Malabot, Marsabit County, Kenya

Michael N Ngutu, Francis K Lelo1, Isaac S Kosgey2 and Brigitte Kaufmann3

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute – Marsabit,
P.O Box 147- 60500, Marsabit, Kenya.
1Laikipia Campus, Nyahururu, Kenya
2Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University, Kenya
3Institute of Animal Production in the Tropics and Subtropics, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany


The main economic activity undertaken in the Kenyan arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) is pastoralism supported by local livestock breeds. Marsabit County is predominantly ASAL and the area’s communities have, over the years, bred livestock suited to these very harsh environments. Without these animals, the very survival of the communities would be highly threatened. However, many development agencies working in northern Kenya have had projects that sought to increase livestock productivity by the introduction of “superior” breeds, unaware that it is a first step to genetic dilution of indigenous breeds. Many experts in livestock conservation argue that the most sustainable way to conserve animal genetic resources (AnGRs) is through community-based management (CBM) that would ensure that indigenous breeds remained functional parts of the production systems. This study sought to establish if community based organizations (CBOs) were capable of managing indigenous livestock marketing interventions to generate benefits to the CBO and individual members. A sociological sample survey design was used where both structured and semi-structured questionnaires were employed as the primary data collection instruments. The collected data was analyzed using chi-square (c2) and correlation analysis. The study was conducted in Malabot and Farakoren, both in Marsabit County. Pastoralists CBOs were found capable of managing indigenous livestock marketing interventions in such a manner as to generate income for the CBO, earn individual members benefits and increase local off-take of local breeds. 

Key words: Community, income, off-take, organization


In the 1990s many authors noted that the role of communities and local institutions in the management of common rangeland resources had been largely disregarded in policy formulation (Sidahmed 1991; Ngaido et al 1998). Many researchers argued that range development projects failed because of top-down technical approaches from remote centralized administrations and the exclusion of pastoral institutions in the management of their resources (Sidahmed 1991; World Bank 1995). Since the time of the above sentiments varied development agencies have strived to ensure that communities took charge of their natural resources. In Marsabit County, environmental management committees (EMC) and community resource management committees (CRMC) come to symbolise such initiatives. Community-based management (CBM) of any resource can be defined as “the management of a resource in which decisions on defining, prioritizing and implementing actions related to the resource are made by the local communities who own this resource” (Rege et al 2001). Therefore, for a management system to earn the title “community-based”, the community in question needs to organize itself by having some form of governance structures (Nyangito and Omiti 2000). Community self-organization is that process by which the people organize themselves to 'take charge' of their situation. It is a particularly effective tool for the poor and powerless as they determine for themselves the actions they will take to deal with the essential forces that are slowing their development (Linthicum 1991).

Much has been written about collective action for the management of common resources such as vegetation in pastoralist settings. However, collective action that can enable better utilization and management of resources owned individually by pastoralists such as their livestock have not been extensively looked at (Sidahmed 1991; World Bank 1995; Haro et al 2005; Munyao and Barret 2006). In Central Kenya, the cooperative movement which in many ways was a form of CBM, despite some shortcomings, helped farmers reach markets and get farm inputs that they otherwise would have had difficulty accessing.

Two broad categories of CBM system emerge when literature on the issue is studied including community-wide organizations/committees and groups/ common interest organizations (Forsyth 1990; Neill 2002; Wanyama 2002; IFAD 2007). The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD 2007) defines committees as “groups of people who are self-selected or appointed by the decision of a larger body for the purpose of reviewing or overseeing a matter of common interest.” Groups on the other hand are described as “common interest groupings that provide a framework for concerted action by a substantial body of people” (IFAD 2007).

So far, the ability of such CBOs (especially in a pastoralist context) to effectively implement indigenous livestock marketing is little understood. The current study sought to establish the viability of using formal pastoralists’ organizations to manage livestock marketing projects. The overall objective of the study was to evaluate the ability of CBOs to manage indigenous livestock marketing projects in a pastoralist setting. The specific objectives were to assess if:


§  a livestock marketing activity could generate additional income for the group;

§  the group activities could lead to increased livestock off-take in the cluster areas; and

§  the livestock marketing enterprise benefited individual group members.

Materials and methods

The study was conducted in Malabot and Farakoren, which are located in Marsabit North and Marsabit South districts, respectively. Two registered pastoralist groups composed of members with a common interest in indigenous livestock management were used for the study. The groups had been registered by the District Social Services (DSS) and had opened bank accounts. The groups had been trained on issues related to group dynamics, and had developed governance and financial management guidelines. They were engaged in activities related to the improved management and marketing of livestock breeds, specifically smallstock (sheep and goats). Each group had received a grant of Kshs. 300,000 to enable the implementation of measures geared towards better management and utilization of their smallstock. The activities the groups were undertaking included: (i) livestock marketing, (ii) livestock drugs trade and (iii) marketing of hides and skins. These activities had been selected because they were seen as the most economically viable and manageable, given the resources available to the groups. The group members were all pastoralists and over 90% of the group members were illiterate.

The study was conducted using a case study approach where two groups and the communities surrounding the group were examined. A sociological sample survey design was used where both structured and semi-structured questionnaires were the primary data collection instruments. The Red Cross (2008) list of relief food beneficiaries was used as the sampling frame as it was the most up to date list of households in the two study sites. From the sampling frame, 200 households were selected using a simple systematic random sampling procedure and interviewed over a 12 months period. For information related to group management, 25 members were interviewed every month over a year. The collected data was coded, stored and managed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) computer software.

Most of the data collected was categorical data and, therefore, the chi-square (c2) test was used for statistical analysis (Mugenda and Mugenda 2003). Responses were classified into different categories during the coding exercises and the statistical significance of the responses in each catergory determined using the chi-square test.  The results are presented in the form of contingency tables and graphs/figures.

Results and discussion

Livestock marketing entailed the group members purchasing livestock from within their communities or in their proximity and selling this to markets further away. In Malabot the market targeted was mainly Nairobi (about 600 km away) while in Farakoren the markets were Laisamis and Maralal (about 70 km away). To establish if the groups were able to successfully manage this enterprise, the following issues were looked at: (i) if the groups were able to yield positive returns from the livestock marketing activity, (ii) if the activity had enabled the group members offload their livestock at better prices and (iii) If the individual group members were benefiting from the livestock marketing activity.

Effect of the livestock marketing activity on group income

From group records and physical count of cash at hand, it was established that both groups had indeed increased the total amount of funds available to the group through trading in livestock over a one year period. Farakoren had held five major livestock purchase and sale events while Malabot had only held three events over a one year period. This can be attributed to the fact that the markets targeted by the Farakoren group were near and had less logistical challenges. All the Farakoren group needed to do after livestock purchase was trekking to a market. In Malabot, the logistics of taking the livestock to the market were complicated by the need to hire a lorry and also competition from other buyers offering more competitive prices than the group. Figure 1 shows the groups’ returns from livestock trade and indicates that over a one year period with an initial capital of KES 300,000 the Farakoren Group was able to make net returns in excess of KES 100,000, while in Malabot the figure was KES 50,000. These values were impressive as they translated to 30% and 15%, which for any commercial undertaking, could be considered to be good.

 The fact that the indigenous livestock marketing activity was able to give good returns as a group managed enterprise goes to show that it is possible for pastoralist groups to successfully manage activities that enhance the utility they derive from their livestock.

Figure 1. Total returns from livestock trade over a one year period

Effect of livestock marketing activity on livestock off-take

In both study sites, the majority of group members offered only one goat for sale to the group. Figure 2 shows that, correspondingly, 84% and 62% of the group members in Farakoren and Malabot only offered one goats at any one marketing event. The study further showed that the groups could comfortably organize three marketing events in a year. During the study period the Farakoren group organized for five marketing events while the Malabot group held 3. This implied that the maximum number of goats that the majority of the households could have marketed over a one year period were five and three in Farakoren and Malabot, respectively (i.e., the number of marketing events multiplied by the 1 goat offered). The average number of goats offloaded per household in Northern Kenya is 2.3 per year (Osterloh et al  2004, Macpeak et al 2004). Further it is important to note that in Malabot, up to 33% of the group members offered two goats, while about 5% offered three goats. It can therefore be said that in both study sites, the groups were able to offer the communities a substantial outlet for their goats.

Figure 2. Number of goats offered for sale to group in the two study sites over a 1 year period (n=94, χ2 = 5.200, p < 0.043)

It is worth noting that the group members did not give their best goats to the group with 73% and 69% of them in Malabot and Farakoren, respectively, giving goats of grades 2 and 3 (The grading of goats was done based on the criteria in local trade. Normally in both communities, grade 1 is the best goat judged by size and the general body condition. Grade 2 is of average size and body condition and grade 3 is the smallest goat. Female goats are normally classified simply as female as they never get to the sizes of the grade 1 and 2 goats).

In both sites, this could be attributed to a decision by the group to buy the lower value goats in the belief that the profits from these animals were more, and that with the same amount of money more of the lower grade animals could be bought. This line of thought seems to be borne-out by the good profits made by the group. 

The prices of the goats by grade for the different sites were interesting in that the smaller Rendille goats, on average, fetched better prices than the large Gabbra ones (Figure 3). On average, the price for a grade 1 goat from Malabot was KES 2,250 and 2,450 for Farakoren, for  grade 2 goats, the price was KES 1,300 and 1,700 for Malabot and Farakoren, respectively. The lower prices in Malabot are difficult to explain especially given that the Malabot community had more market exposure and were targeting the Nairobi Market where prices are expected to be better. It is probable that the Malabot community had a better understanding of price fluctuations in the market place due to having been exposed to livestock trade for longer periods than Farakoren. Hence, they were more willing to compromise on the prices offered.  In both study sites, the group members were generally happy with the prices offered.


Figure 3. Average prices for different grades of goats for the two study sites
 (n = 113, χ2 = 48.127, p< 0.01)

 Livestock marketing in Northern Kenya targeting terminal markets in Nairobi mainly depended on business people that had the means to take the risks associated with the business (Mohmound, 2003). Individual pastoralists could only offload their livestock through these businessmen. According to McPeak (2001), pastoralists who had access to markets tended to have higher livestock sales and fewer losses during droughts. The higher marketing rates resort to better restocking and generally better welfare for the pastoralists. Barrent et al (2004) found that the single most important factor that stimulated livestock off-take was large herd size, meaning that an emphasis should be on strategies that enabled large herds for viable pastoralism to be maintained. However, Desta et al (2005) showed that by working to empower pastoralist communities to form groups, and linking these groups to markets, local off-take of livestock increased. The findings of the present study concur with Desta et al (2005) in that the members of the communities where the two study pastoralist groups were active sold increased numbers of livestock.  

Benefits to individual group members from livestock marketing activity

Individual group members benefited materially from the group in three ways, which could directly be attributed to the livestock marketing activity including receiving money, livestock and employment (Figure 4). It must be stated here that all the benefits received from members were not from the initial group grants but from profits from the group trading activities.

Figure 4. Types of benefits received by group members (n = 114, χ2 = 18.442, p < 0.01)


Three members in Farakoren had received cash from the group; these were members with serious food problems in their homesteads. The officials consulted the group members and a decision was made to give a grant to the affected members.

All 40 group members in Farakoren received goats each valued at approximately KES 1,000, while in Malabot, 21 of the 36 group members received female goats, each valued at KES 1,500. The members that received goats in Malabot were selected because they were the poorer members, but in Farakoren, they decided that all members should get goats. The purpose of giving goats in both sites was two-fold, as a method of helping members to increase their flocks and a way of introducing good breeds to their flocks. In Malabot, all the goats bought for members were female of superior Gabbra extract. This was therefore essentially a restocking exercise as the females were likely to increase the flock size more rapidly then the males. In Farakoren, 28% of the goats bought were Gabbra males, indicating that members wanted to introduce the Gabbra goat genes into their flocks. A male goat was essentially bought for rapid genetic improvement as it could introduce its genes to a large portion of the flock in a short period. About 32% went for the Gabbra female while 40% went for the Rendille female. Given that a total of 72% of the members went for female animals indicated that the primary objective of the group members was to increase their flock size.

The livestock marketing activity further benefited members by being a source of wage employment. The contribution of the group to employment of members was more pronounced in Farakoren where 33% of the members had benefited, while in Malabot it was only 6%. The employment referred to here is the group tasks that members were paid to perform such as buying and selling livestock. Buying livestock could be categorized into two, i.e., buying livestock from around the cluster area, where not much expense was incurred by the group, and buying them from outside the cluster areas, where those assigned the task had to walk for many hours and, even in some cases, days before they could start the buying process. The tasks of herding bought smallstock did not elicit payment because the bought livestock were easily mixed with the member’s flock.

On average, the income that group members were able to accrue from the performance of the different tasks ranged from KES 500 to 5,000. The most paying task was that of selling livestock. This was expected because the animals had to be trekked to distant places to be sold. In Farakoren, the animals had to be trekked to places as far as 70 km, while in Malabot, the animals had to be transported by lorry 600 km away to Nairobi. In Malabot, all the animals was bought from within the cluster area, while in Farakoren, the animals were sometimes bought away from the cluster area. The average incomes a group member got from buying animals from the home range were KES 700 and 500 in Farakoren and Malabot, respectively. The group members from Farakoren who participated in buying animals far away from the home range got an average of KES 1000. For selling smallstock, the average incomes for group members were, correspondingly, KES 3,300 and 5,000 in Farakoren and Malabot. Figure 5 shows the distribution of earnings by members from different group activities. Evidently, the group in Farakoren spread the benefits of employment to a large number of its members and that the most common payment amounts ranged from KES 700 to 1,000. In Malabot, employment was restricted to only a few group members, and even then, they all earned KES 500 except for those who went to sell the livestock.

Figure 5. Amount of money received by members working for the group (n=81, χ2 = 99.767 p<0.01)
Risks and hazards in marketing by the group

Critical to the success of group-based livestock marketing activity was the thinking through of exactly how the business would be undertaken. Drawing the marketing chain with an emphasis on the following issues was important: (i) where the livestock to be bought would come from – within the community or from outside?, (ii) who would do the buying and how would they be compensated for the time spent buying the animals?, (iii) where would the bought livestock be kept before they were taken to the market?, (iv) what market would be targeted and how would the animals be taken there?, (v) what  number of animals would be bought at any one time?, (vi) what grade of animals would be targeted and how much would be paid for such animals? and (vii) what would be the frequency of taking animals to the market?

Thinking through the above issues did not come naturally to the groups. They were facilitated to interrogate their plans in open fora and this enabled them to come up with concrete plans. The study found that without such an interrogation, groups could easily rush into implementation of seemingly good ideas without viable plans leading to the failure of otherwise good ideas.

A major constraint to the functioning of groups in a pastoralist setting is the absence of banking services in the proximity of their areas of operation. This means that the money from livestock sales could easily be misappropriated or stolen. Banking ensures safe keeping of money and enables a system of authorization before funds can be withdrawn. In both study sites fortunately no misappropriation or theft happened during the study period but remains a potential danger.

Group members reported that a small number of the animals they bought died soon after bought. This presents a potential problem that can plague a group based livestock marketing approach. Livestock owners with knowledge that they have sick animals could sell them to the group. Also the groups could buy sick animals and introduce diseases to members’ flocks. This is a danger that would affect the average pastoralist but is more likely to affect people actively and continuously buying livestock and mixing this with their flocks and needs to be taken in to consideration when dealing with such an activity.

Conclusion and recommendation


The authors wish to acknowledge the contribution of the Director Kenya Agricultural Research Institution (KARI) for the facilitative role he played in the implementation of the study. The Centre Director KARI-Marsabit for providing a conductive environment to work in. KARI–Marsabit and Egerton University staff for their moral and technical support. The pastoralist communities of Malabot and Farakoren for offering their time and resources to make the study a success and the ILRI-BMZ-Hohenheim-Göttingen Collaborative Project for funding the project. 


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Received 14 June 2010; Accepted 21 October 2010; Published 5 January 2011

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