Appreciating Kenya’s drylands

12 January 2011 | News story

In Kenya, drylands make up 84 percent of the country’s total land surface and support about 9.9 million Kenyans, or approximately 34 percent of the country’s population.

They account for more than 80 percent of the country’s eco-tourism interests and up to 75 percent of its wildlife population.

The drylands nonetheless receive insufficient investment – both in terms of financing and policy incentives, and are under-recognized for their potential value in national development and poverty reduction.

On average the people of the drylands are poorer, with proportionally fewer social services and less infrastructure than their counterparts in high potential areas. Many pastoralists have had their critical dry season grazing areas expropriated for other land uses, thereby undermining one of the few integrated land use systems capable of supporting life in such harsh lands.

Yet the potential, especially in the livestock sector, is now increasingly being recognized. The national livestock herd has been estimated at 33.4 million head, with 46 percent of this herd (or 15.2 million livestock) kept by pastoralists.

Pastoral livestock holdings have a capital value of approximately USD860 million with an annual off-take for meat and hides worth about USD69.3 million for both subsistence and sale.

As pastoralists in Kenya generally manage livestock for milk not meat, the total value of the milk production from the drylands (approximately USD134.6 million per annum) is nearly twice that of the value of slaughter off-take.

“The Kenya study shows the need to better accommodate pastoralist economies in national development planning,” says Edmund Barrow, Forest and Dryland Conservation and Social Policy Coordinator for IUCN Eastern Africa.

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