InformAfrica.com — Kenya’s Minister of State for Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands launched a book on February 13 exploring the challenges and lucrative opportunities existing in pastoralism. The book ‘Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins’ seeks to demystify commonplace myths that the practice is not sustainable or profitable.
Speaking at the launch, one of the authors Professor Hussein Mahmoud a senior lecturer Pwani University lamented, Kenya lags behind in tapping to a booming camel business with potential to earn Moyale town over $16 million dollars annually by selling 100 camels daily. Professor Mahmoud cited rigid policies in Kenya as holding back livestock trade that’s booming in Ethiopia where it’s liberalized.
“Pastoral friendly policies need to be implemented by the government,” he said. Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia according to FAO have an estimated camel population of 10 million. However Ethiopia with 2.4 million of her camels is engaged in vibrant cross border trade to get more camels to slaughter in Addis Ababa and export to Egypt and Gulf countries where their meat is in demand.
Initially, Kenya controlled camel trade but Arab exporters pulled out due to bureaucracy and export costs from Mombasa port that left them with negligible profits. Consequently they moved to Ethiopia. While researching for the book, Professor Mahmoud realized 10 years ago people crossing to Ethiopia with animals were shot with them. Today the boom has brought relative peace. “They now welcome you and have constructed a modern livestock market on their border side,” said Mahmoud.
According to John Letai one of the chapters author, besides policy makers, it’s targeted to donors with interest in pastoralism and pastoralists themselves. “It will enable them cope with the changing environment they are living in,” he said. He noted illiteracy challenges are rife among pastoralists’ communities. Still he challenged the government and grassroots organizations working with them, to ensure information therein is accessible to them in their languages.
Letai noted in Kenya, pastoralism issues are on the periphery of development focus by the government such that, prior to 2002 they were in the docket of Internal Security Ministry. This was largely attributed to rustling cases common in these communities. Professor Mahmoud also noted while varying prices of crops are covered almost daily by the media, livestock prices are never mentioned. “Yet if nyama choma (barbequed meat) was to lack in Nairobi that would be a crisis,” he said.
While launching the book, the Minister Mohamed Elmi said he book captures innovation among peoples often dismissed as backward and reactionary. He also pointed out that the National Council on Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK) has been approved by parliament and soon will be gazette. NACONEK will provide a base in education sector, to find innovative ways to reach pastoralist families whom a system of fixed schools is impractical.
By James Karuga