By Gift Briton

With the compounding effects of climate change, declining grazing lands, inter-clan clashes and poor government policies -undermining its productivity and sustainability, research shows that pastoralism in Eastern Africa including Kenya is facing extinction.

According to a research by Walter Wafula, a post graduate researcher at the University of Nairobi (UoN), over the last two decades, there has been significant migration of pastoralists to cities in a bid to find sustainable solution to their problems.

Wafula found out that most pastoralists are migrating to the cities because they believe that in the cities, there is more pasture, water and little or no confrontation over gazing lands. Moreover, some are also looking for ready market and employment opportunities in the cities.

However, he notes that the increasing urbanization coupled with the increasing population pressure, lack of government policies and effects of climate change, pastoralism is becoming unsustainable and maybe thrown to extinction.

While in the city, they graze their animals along the highways, in the open spaces across the city and some even feed their animals on market remains. Surprisingly, some even sneak their livestock in the parks to look for pasture and water.

Research found out that there are two classifications of pastoralist migrating to the city, permanent and temporary pastoralists.  The permanent pastoralists come to stay in the city while temporary pastoralists only come to the city when they are faced with drought at home.  Even though they provide meat and milk to most city residents, pastoralism in the city has led to increased number of road accidents and environmental pollution.

In Kenya, 80% of the land mass is characterized by arid and semi-arid lands with pastoralism being the main source of livelihood to millions of people residing in these lands. Furthermore, according to springer 2019 report, pastoralism contributes up to 44% of the country’s GDP, however, the government has not implemented  mechanisms to ensure sustainability despite its economic contribution to the country.

Additionally, pastoralists are key to the food security in areas that do not support crop production. They promote rangeland health by conserving biodiversity, managing fires and accelerating nutrient cycling. However, they are faced with a myriad of challenges including land use and land tenure changes, resulting in diminished grazing land. Together with environmental degradation, livestock depletion and conversion of traditional grazing lands into other uses such as settlements, pastoralism is under a big threat.

As a result, Wafula recommends that there is need for governments to understand problems affecting pastoralists and form policies and interventions aimed at achieving a sustainable pastoral production system. “The government should come up with laws on land planning and some pastoralists to engage in fodder large scale fodder production to address the issue of declining grazing lands” he said.

In addition, with the increasing urbanization which has seen a lot of people buy pastoral lands, International Livestock Research Institute(ILRI), has urged governments to provide appropriate land-use mapping and planning for extensive livestock production systems that require sustained livestock mobility.

Also, the livestock organization has recommended the restoration of degraded rangelands by promoting community-based range management, enhancing livestock insurance schemes that prevent the need to keep excess stock for insurance purposes and enhancing livestock productivity as well as providing pastoral and agro-pastoral communities with incentives for judicious decision-making would lead to greater rangeland productivity and sustainable land management.