Kenya is home to one of Africa’s largest livestock herds. However, the country remains a net beef importer, and its beef trade deficit is growing.
This calls for the modernisation of the sector to make it more efficient and competitive. Investors interested in supporting this vital sector can tap different opportunities available along the value chain.
Most of the country’s beef is largely produced by more than 10 million pastoralists and smallholder livestock keepers in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). These producers depend on the livestock sector as their main source of livelihood.
To date, pastoralists have struggled to engage effectively in commercial value chains. Their participation has been marred by their limited access to inputs and exposure to climate-related risks.
Increasing demand for meat in urban centres offers the sector growth opportunities as well as a growing middle class increasingly concerned with food safety and higher-value products. There is also a small but growing export opportunity.
Gatsby Africa, a private foundation working in Kenya, asserts that the sector has an important role to play in delivering an inclusive and prosperous future for millions of vulnerable people in Kenya.
“Kenya has an opportunity to build a competitive and climate-resilient sector and be ahead of the climate agenda of other meat-producing and exporting countries regionally and globally,” it says.
It adds that the key question for Kenya is whether it is possible to modernise and improve productivity in the livestock sector in a way that enables as many of the ten million pastoralists to participate in and benefit from the sector.
Gatsby’s Dr John Wamahiu points to opportunities in supplying the sector with adequate fodder. A prolonged drought tested the resilience of livestock producers in the ASALs, with most forced to practice mobile pastoralism to cope with fodder and water shortages.
Dr Wamahiu says entrepreneurs – and even the pastoralists – can take advantage of the rain that has replenished grass in many parts of the country. They can cut the grass and make hay that will feed livestock during the drier periods of the year.
He adds that new investments could open new routes to the market. An example is aggregator models such as ranches and feedlots, which integrate pastoralists into the value chain. Another is finishing and fattening services that deliver more value for pastoralists. Yet another is traceability technologies which enhance transparency and quality.
The use of inclusive feedlot and aggregation models can improve the quality and quantity of livestock traded.
New large-scale private investment in processing capacity and cold chain will increase product value and open up more efficient routes to market.
The Gatsby Africa team aims to enhance meat processors’ skills, capacity, and productivity via technical assistance - and gain an in-depth understanding of the consumer demand for differentiated meat products.
Mirriam Mulei, also of Gatsby Africa, notes that consumer awareness campaigns are needed to increase demand for quality and safe meat.
She notes that the majority of those who cut meat in butcheries are not trained professionals.
Ms Mulei points out that professional butchers are trained to identify specific cuts of meat according to customer preference and extract greater use and value from the carcass.
Despite this value-add opportunity, Kenya has no institute that trains professional butchers, she says, adding that “most of them learn on the job.”
Ms Mulei notes that even though Kenyans’ love for meat is well known, the citizens who want to train as professional butchers have to go out of the country. Most go to South Africa.
She asserts that there’s value in hiring a professional butcher. “You get more value as a butcher and as a consumer,” she says.
Gatsby’s livestock programme is focused on supporting Kenya in developing a modern and competitive meat sector whilst also innovating models that maximise the extent to which livestock producers participate and benefit from higher returns from the sector.
The programme has four key ambitions:
• To improve access and uptake of professional inputs and services among pastoralists;
• To explore the use of inclusive livestock production and aggregation models to improve the quality and quantity of livestock;
• To attract large-scale private investment in meat processing capacity and cold chain to increase product value and open up more efficient routes to market;
• To support the development, review and implementation of various livestock policies that will enable sector transformation in a way that is competitive, inclusive and resilient.
You can find out more about Gatsby’s work with the Kenyan livestock sector and the opportunities the sector transformation presents at www.gatsbyafrica.org.uk.