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Livestock key to Kenya’s food security


Today’s livestock numbers. Seven million households or 60 percent of the population own livestock. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya’s livestock sector is primed to grow exponentially over the next three decades and anchor the country’s food sufficiency amid a rapid rise in the human population, a new survey showed.

Official estimates by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show that the human population presently stands at 47 million and is projected to grow to 96 million by 2050 — pilling pressure on food supplies.

“In the next three decades, the country population is expected to double to 96 million and nearly 50 percent of the people to live in urban areas vis-à-vis 27 percent today.

"GDP (gross domestic product) per capita is projected to increase by over 140 percent by 2050,” UN agency Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report after a study in 21 counties.

“As a consequence, the demand for animal-source foods will exponentially increase. In response to this demand, the livestock sector will deeply transform.”

Projections suggest that between 2015 and 2050, not only the cattle and chicken population will increase by 94 and 375 percent respectively but there will also be major productivity gains.

“By 2050 the livestock sector will supply an additional 7.8 million tonnes of milk, beef and chicken meat to the population, an increase of about 150 percent with respect to today,” FAO said.

The country’s animal population is 18.8 million cattle — 14.3 million beef cattle and 4.5 million cows.

It also has 26.7 million goats, 18.9 million sheep, 3.2 million camels, 44.6 million poultry, 1.9 million donkeys and 0.5 million pigs.

Animal production

Cattle and poultry contribute about 70 percent to the total animal production, estimated at $1,622 billion as of 2016.

Beef is largely produced in arid and semi-arid areas (ASALs), where about 36 percent of the Kenya population live. Dairy production is concentrated in high potential agro-ecological zones where fodder and pastures are available.

The country has an estimated 43.8 million chicken contributing 5.1 percent of the livestock.

The poultry sector is highly heterogeneous and produces more than 35000 tonnes of meat and 1.6 billion eggs annually.

Per capita consumption or the average Kenyan’s consumption of livestock products is estimated at 16 kilogrammes of meat, 121 litres of milk and 45 eggs per person per year respectively.

Growing appetite

Kenyans’ growing appetite for meat and dairy products saw the livestock sector turnover hit Sh146 billion in 2018 from Sh135.6 billion, supported by private and county value chains.

The fast-rising sector continued to attract formation of small-scale farmer co-operatives that increased by 105 or 20.2 percent from 518 to 623.

These are co-operatives that collect milk from farmers for onward direct sales to processors and raised deliveries by 18.4 percent from 535.7 million litres in 2017 to 634.3 million in 2018.

“Quantities of milk and cream processed increased by 10.6 percent from 410.6 million litres in 2017 to 454.1 million litres in 2018 while butter/ghee and cheese processing experienced a 10.8 percent and 15.5 percent growth, respectively, in 2018,” the Economic Survey 2019 said.

The KNBS survey shows 2.78 million cows were slaughtered, being 7.3 percent higher than 2017’s 2.59 million cows, which also saw 10.2 million sheep and goats slaughtered, an 11.3 percent rise from the 9.2 million sold to abattoirs in major towns.

A rise in pork eateries, especially in peri-urban areas as well as meat processing plants, pushed up pig sales 7.8 percent where 388,200 pigs were slaughtered up from 360,100 in 2017.

The performance by the cattle and poultry industry is expected to improve sharply by 2050 and cover for a projected rise in demand.

The FAO estimated that by 2050 the cattle population in Kenya will have increased by 90 percent while milk and beef production will rise to 17,000 tonnes and 2,000 tonnes, respectively.

The country’s chicken population is anticipated to rise to 178 million by 2050.

Capital intensive

About 50 percent of all birds will be raised in capital intensive poultry farms.

Semi-intensive (20 percent) and extensive (30 percent) systems are inefficient because of the limited availability of public services, including veterinary services.

However, in urban and peri-urban areas, where the most population lives, some small-scale and middle-scale farmers have been able to set up efficient poultry enterprises.

Stephen Gikonyo, national animal production and value chain analyst at the FAO Kenya office, said the country would require a new law to promote better husbandry practices to support its livestock sector.

“The success or failure of future livestock production systems depends on the state Kenya will be in 2050. To enjoy expansion and prosperity in the sector, it is necessary for the country to bank on good governance, good economic policies and policy implementation,” he said when he presented the survey report.

Reacting to the report’s findings and projections for the livestock sector in the next 30 years, Livestock PS Harry Kimutai said the government was preparing new laws to support the dairy sector, which holds huge potential for growth.

“The government is working on a comprehensive dairy Bill to address the challenges faced in the industry faced by farmers in the sector, as well as the opportunities available for increased and sustainable production,” he said.

Quality semen

The PS said the government would focus on improving artificial insemination (AI) services such as storage of quality semen.

Mr Kimutai said the State had acquired four liquid nitrogen tankers to supply liquid nitrogen across the country.

Liquid nitrogen is used to preserve frozen semen extracted from bulls in biological storage facilities for use in artificial insemination.

The country requires a minimum of 1.2 million doses of semen annually.

The PS said Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki had asked the government to build an artificial insemination plant in his county.

However, he said, the State rejected the request because it would be too expensive to maintain the facility in the long run.

“The governor had approached us to build an AI plant in Tharaka Nithi but when we calculated the cost of setting up the facility and the resulting power consumption expenses, we reasoned that the liquid nitrogen tankers would be a cheaper option. We are launching the project in August starting with Tharaka Nithi,” he said.