Cabinet Secretary joins champion farmers in spreading knowledge on resilient livestock breeds in Kenya

Felix Koskei, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries admires Galla goats; a most sought after breed due to its traits of early maturity, disease resistance and high market prices. Photo: T.Muchaba (CCAFS)
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oct 20, 2014

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John Recha and Tabitha Muchaba (CCAFS East Africa)

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Through an annual agricultural fair, champion farmers in Nyando, western Kenya interact with the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and discuss the importance of adopting resilient livestock breeds in a changing climate.

“Our war on hunger in Kenya will be won through such resilient breeds of sheep, goats, and chicken” remarked Felix Koskei, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

Felix  Koskei made these remarks in August 2014 at the exhibition stand of champion farmers from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) Nyando climate smart villages (CSVs). This was during the annual Kisumu Agricultural Society of Kenya trade fair event whose theme was Enhancing technology in agriculture and industry for food security and national growth.

Farmers learn about fodder options for livestock during the agricultural show. PHOTO. T. MUCHABA

Champion farmers Edward Ouko and Stephen Matinde talked to 5,000 guests in five days, representing 4% of the total 122,000 guests who participated in the entire event. The champion farmers exhibition stall was adjacent that of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). Both stalls jointly won the Kisumu Agricultural Society of Kenya Chairman’s Recommendation Trophy as the best stalls, whose design correctly interpreted the theme of the 2014 event. The champion farmers exhibited Galla goats, Dorper and Red Maasai sheep, and Kenbro chicken.  The sheep and goats were bred by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) together with KARI, while the chicken breed is a product of KARI with a private sector company, Kenchic.  

In the Nyando CSVs, the faster maturing Galla goats and Red Maasai sheep are being cross-bred with local breeds. Within one year, 70 bucks and 35 rams will have an average of 16,000 and 8000 offspring  respectively. The Kenbro chicken multiplication rate is estimated at 1,000 per Community Based Organisation (CBO).

Read more: Moulding climate champions, creating food secure communities

The farmers undergo training by the government livestock extension staff and CCAFS partners on appropriate housing, feed development, and controlling inbreeding in order to achieve maximum benefits from the improved livestock enterprises. Discussions are underway with Kericho and Kisumu County governments for scaling up to have at least 5,000 farmers in the next 24 months keeping the improved breeds.

“Kenyan smallholder farmers should follow the example of Nyando champion farmers who keep fewer productive livestock that the land can sustainably support. This will not only provide more food from livestock products, but also reduce land degradation especially in drylands which represent over 75% of Kenya’s land mass”, said Koskei having interacted with the farmers.

Farmers visit other stands to learn about better crop varieties during the agricultural fair. Photo: T. Muchaba (CCAFS)

Other visitors to the champion farmers stand  were keen to learn more about the livestock breeds on display: time to maturity, reproductive cycles, feeding, housing, healthcare, and marketing.

Guests: How did you get the Galla goats on your farms, and for how long have you reared them?

Champion farmers: In 2011, our CBO held consultative meetings with CCAFS and partners. We learnt about climate change in our location and the related risks - more frequent droughts and floods, unpredictable rainfall, new diseases and pests, rampant soil erosion and gullies that currently affect about 40 per cent of the landscape. In order to tackle these problems, we came up with a list of requests for improved crop and livestock production starting with new breeds of goats. Through CBO resource mobilization we acquired 70 male Galla goats, which formed the initial breeding units for crossing with the local Small East African goats.

Guests: How about the Dorper and Red Maasai sheep? Why do you have two improved sheep breeds?

Champion farmers: In 2012, farmers acquired a total of 12 male Dorper sheep. However, we noticed that they were more susceptible to pests and diseases, and also had shorter tails compared to our local breeds. We monitored them continuously and provided feedback to CCAFS. As a better alternative, a more appropriate breed, the Red Maasai was acquired from ILRI in August 2013. They have longer tails which we like, and also resist diseases and parasites. Currently, there are 35 Red Maasai rams which form the breeding unit.

Guests: You have talked a lot about heat stress tolerance, and disease and pest resistance. What about their ability to reproduce and how long do they take to mature?

Champion farmers: The improved sheep and goats generally mature earlier by six months compared to the local breeds. Likewise, the Kenbro chicken mature earlier by three months and lay more eggs. That means faster reproductive cycles.

Guests: Being improved breeds, they must have specialized care? What does that involve, and how much feed do they consume?

Champion farmers:  Generally, they need improved housing that is well ventilated and damp proof to prevent Pneumonia. The housing also helps in manure collection. The structures can be made from affordable local materials. Their feed requirements are the same as the local breeds. But as you know, there is a shortage of feeds especially during the dry seasons which retard their growth, reproduction and productivity. Therefore, you need to make and store feed for them from locally available crop residues, similar to what we have displayed.

Guests: Have you fetched better prices in the local market, if so by how much?

Champion farmers: Yes, the Kenbro chickens fetch at least 50% more money than the local ones. As for the Galla goats and Red Maasai sheep, they fetch three times the price of local ones.

Guests: How can we get these special breeds for crossing with our local ones?

Champion farmers: They are already in high demand within the Nyando CSVs and each CBO has its own mechanism of multiplying the cross-breeds.  We can introduce you to our partners on acquiring the breeds.

Each year, farmers in Nyando participate in the agricultural fairs in the region to not only share lessons from their local adaptation practices but also to learn from others new climate smart agriculture technologies.  By adopting new climate smart practices, more households are becoming food secure.

View all photos from the fair: