Institutional and policy issues relevant to pastoral development in Kenya

Omiti, John; Irungu P. Institutional and policy issues relevant to pastoral development in Kenya.; 2002.


Pastoral life is dependent upon and bound to livestock. Pastoralists operate in a fragile and precarious environment characterised, by long dry spells, interspersed with low and erratic rainfall. These factors, together with low soil nutrients and high temperatures limit the productive capacity of their key enterprise: livestock. Sustainable livestock production in pastoral areas of Africa, and particularly in Kenya, is made worse by the failure of institutions to guard against both poor governance and the articulation of development policies that are biased against pastoralism. Institutional failure in pastoral areas is depicted by, among other things, social and political marginalisation, economic stagnation, destitution and persistent social conflicts. Public policy should address these issues in order to develop a more secure system for the sustainable development of pastoral areas. Several interventions have been carried in pastoral areas in an effort to improve the situation. However, most interventions in the Kenyan pastoral areas have been intermittent and sporadic in nature, often in response to crises such as drought, famine or such other disasters. Most of these efforts have been inappropriate and rather untimely, with unsatisfactory results. To mitigate against such frustrations, development of pastoral areas should adopt a more holistic approach that focuses on the root causes of constraints in the pastoral sector rather than merely attempting to 'treat' the symptoms. This would involve targeting the constraints arising from agro-ecological, political and socio-economic environments. The solutions to these constraints should be practical, demand-driven, people-centred and backed by requisite policy instruments. However, the implementation of these strategies may be hindered by a number of factors such as: who will pay for the implementation of these solutions? Is the government willing to retract on the reform agenda in favour of pastoralists? Are the pastoralists themselves willing to improve their lot? This paper reviews various policy-oriented efforts with the aim of suggesting alternative approaches to enhance pastoral development in the country.

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