Originally published on December 5, 2017.
K-SALES Chief of Party Dr. Ignatius Kahiu and Livestock Production Advisor Dr. Sam Owilly (both on the far left) stand next to the Bantu Women Hay Barn.
This is the first in a three-part blog series featuring successes and lessons learned of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Kenya Semi-Arid Livestock Enhancement (K-SALES) program. This Food for Progress initiative focused on livestock development in semi-arid regions in Kenya. The following blogs will be published on December 13 and 20. Read Part Two here. Read Part Three here.
The sun is setting in eastern Kenya. This is usually the best time to reach K-SALES Chief of Party Dr. Ignatius Kahiu and Dr. Sam Owilly, the Livestock Production Advisor in the project. Dust from the dry air covers their clothes. They’ve just returned to the hotel after spending the whole day on farms in the villages of Mwingi West and Mwingi Central of Kitui County, Kenya. As part of their role with the USDA K-SALES program they work with farmers, local community organizations and private sector partners to connect the dots along the livestock meat value chain.
The value chain starts on the farm – where Dr. Sam and Dr. Ignatius are today. Despite the extreme conditions of the semi-arid climate where rainfall is low, today, Dr. Sam and Dr. Ignatius saw that livestock farmers are preparing their farms to withstand extreme weather. “Today we visited a farmer, Mr. Simeon Kasaani. He had preserved 803 bales of hay, enough fodder for his herd of 10 cows to stay fed for three months until the next rainy season. This is the first time he’s done this,” says Dr. Sam.
K-SALES has trained nearly 80,000 farmers like Simeon on how to preserve feed for their cattle and goats during the dry season. After their training, farmers construct hay barns in preparation for the April harvest, a time when they gather, process and mill the crop residues like maize stalks, peas, bean pods and millet. The storage keeps the fodder away from wind, weather and stray animals.
“When the animals are well-fed, it carries the family through the drought season,” says Dr. Ignatius. “It makes them more resilient to the stresses of drought and hunger.”
Mngama Ridge CBO was among those trained by K-SALES under the FFS Component.
Market and trade development
Improved on-farm production practices are just one important piece of the K-SALES project. Businesses face a host of challenges, including insufficient access to inputs and disease control measures, reliance on outdated technologies and practices, lack of transparency on prices, poor linkages between producers and markets, and – most immediately, drought due to weather variability.
With activities and grants that are tailored to support men and women, and with a focus on environmental sustainability, K-SALES is working across the livestock value chain – from farmers to aggregators to processors – to increase productivity, boost marketing and trade and enable Kenya to upgrade food quality to meet market demands.
“We not only work with farmers to increase productivity, but also on the marketing side, looking at processing, support services and market opportunities to support the entire system,” says Dr. Sam.
Dr. Sam had been working with arid and semi-arid livestock communities for nearly a decade before coming to K-SALES in 2016. “Over the last ten years, I’ve seen the situation get dire with extreme weather. Semi-arid regions are where we should turn our attention,” Dr. Sam says.
As the four-year USDA-funded K-SALES program comes to close this December, Dr. Ignatius and Dr. Sam will use the next two blogs to walk us through two main lessons of the program:
- The importance of water
- How commercial development and well-connected markets can increase food security
Straight from the experts to your screen, we hope you will follow along.