Acquisition and management of Somali camel breed for pastoral resilience within peri-urban Isiolo and Marsabit counties of Northern Kenya.
Kuria, S G
Adongo, A O
Koech, O K
Njoka, J T
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A baseline survey was conducted in Isiolo and Marsabit Counties of northern Kenya to document the acquisition and current management practices of Somali camel keepers. Data collection was done using participatory methodologies i.e. semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics and t-tests respectively. The results indicated slight differences with Somali camel keepers in Isiolo obtaining breeding stock through market purchase and inheritance, whilst those in Marsabit obtained through market purchase and re-stocking programs. Majority of camel keepers in both Isiolo and Marsabit grazed their camels in shrub lands (65%, n=62; 41%, n=47 respectively) and on plain terrain (73%, n=71; 79%, n=86 respectively) suggesting good level of understanding on the type of vegetation and terrain suitable for Somali camels. Isiolo pastoralists were allowing an extra grazing hour (11.7 hours against 10.7), were watering the Somali camels more frequently especially during dry season (every 5th day against 7th) and were also allowing the calves to suckle for a longer period before beginning to drink water than was the case in Marsabit (5.1 months against 3.8). These management practices are important for commercial camel rearing. In Isiolo, 90% (n=80; N=91) of respondents were feeding their camels with mineral supplement compared to 68% (n=73; N=120) in Marsabit (χ2=14, p<0.001). In Marsabit, 41% (n=44) of respondents had recorded cases of heat repeat compared with 61% (n=54) in Isiolo. About 85% (n=77) of respondents in Isiolo had an average of 2 own breeding bulls compared with 73% (n=78) with an average of 1 in Marsabit. About 87% (n=72) of respondents in Isiolo understood what inbreeding is while 13% (n=11) did not (χ2 = 201, p<0.001). The situation in Marsabit was such that 90% (n=99) of respondents understood inbreeding while 10% (n=11) did not (χ2 = 70, p< 0.001). In Isiolo, pastoralists controlled inbreeding in camel herds by exchanging bulls with neighbors (51%, n=76); keeping more than one bull (25%, n=38) and ensuring bull did not mate related females (24%, n=36). Marsabit pastoralists on the other hand controlled inbreeding by exchanging bull with the neighbors (58%, n=52); ensuring bull did not mate related females (27%, n=24) and keeping more than one bull (15%, n=13). Isiolo pastoralists were retiring breeding bulls at 14±6.3 (n=76) years compared with 12.3±6.3 (n=101) in Marsabit. On the other hand, the Isiolo pastoralists were retiring females after 12±7 (n=67) calvings compared to 9±4 (n=62) in Marsabit. Close to 61% (n=52) of Isiolo respondents allowed calves to suckle all the colostrum while in Marsabit, 50% (n=45) did. When expressed as a percentage of the average number of camels per household (Isiolo =35; Marsabit = 6), the mortality in Isiolo was 3% against 17% in Marsabit. In conclusion, Isiolo pastoralists were doing better with respect to most of the management practices compared to their Marsabit counterparts. The study recommended capacity building in most of management aspects especially in Marsabit where commercial rearing of Somali camels is in the formative stage in order to improve performance and by so doing strengthen resilience of farmers to climate variability.
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