Bridging the gap: Connecting Maasai pastoralist communities to livestock markets. Kenya Learning Route, case 1.

By Elaine Reinke and Silvia Sperandini

To improve a value chain, you have to be part of it”. With these words Michael Kibue, Director of Agritrade and one of the three PROCASUR Technical Coordinators of this route, opened his briefing to the “Ruteros” before visiting the first case in Amboseli, south-eastern Kenya. Here, in a beautiful natural scenario in the savanna near the Kilimanjaro, the participants met the Siana Masaai Women and Kilitome Market Access Committees (MAC) to discuss the livestock value chain and learn how these pastoral groups gained better access to the livestock market.

Thanks to a partnership between the local Maasai communities, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), an international NGO, and Agritrade, a private sector company, MACs were created in 2009 to facilitate the development of an efficient pro-poor market chain that benefits livestock producers including pastoral women.

AWF established the conservation areas in which the Maasai groups live, gave a loan to Agritrade under the condition that the private sector player provides start-up trading capital to the Maasai groups and do business with them.
After witnessing and participating in traditional singing and dancing with jingling jewels, the group entered into a lively discussion with the MACs to better understand how they were able to bridge the gap between producers and markets. After many hours of storytelling, role plays and question and answer sessions, the route participants fully immerged into the MAC concept based on an integration of social, economic and environmental aspects through effective win-win partnerships.

The MACs replace the role of the middlemen shortening the livestock value chain and, in combination with value addition through fattening, enable the pastoral communities obtaining better income from livestock marketing. It also offers pastoralists access to urban meat markets, hence higher returns for producers who are typically exploited in the standard livestock marketing practices. In addition, MACs facilitate the transfer of awareness, knowledge and skills that empowers pastoralists to gain profitable returns from their livestock resources.

Another innovative practice that emerged from this case is the Siana women group which successfully ventured into a sector traditionally dominated by men. Given that male community members hold control over family herds and means of production, women occupy a lower status in decision-making processes with limited opportunities for their socio-economic empowerment. Transforming such culturally rooted norms and systems requires the commitment of champions to drive the change.

The Siana women group is leading this change process.With technical and financial support mobilized through the aforementioned partnerships, they are now more experienced in dealing with market dynamics, pasture and livestock management. Last year they also established their own cattle head thanks to a small donation received from the IFAD Help Fund. They are now livestock producers and traders with a stronger decision-making role within their households and communities. The challenges to overcome are still many (such as market and climate instability, animal diseases and poor access to veterinarian services etc.) – but the “Ruteros” believe that with their strong commitment and entrepreneurial spirit, the Maasai groups will continue their journey towards a better livelihood.