Marketing of sheep and goats and its role in food security among pastoral communities in Marsabit District, Kenya
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Pastoral households have become chronically food insecure. Since sheep and goats are kept in large numbers in the arid and semi-arid environments compared to other species of livestock, they are expected to play an important role in pastoral household food security. Improved sheep and goat market efficiency and offtake were hypothesized to contribute towards alleviation of food insecurity. The study assessed the relative importance of marketing of sheep and goats in the Rendille/Ariaal household food security. A sample of 97 households was randomly selected for household data while 32 butchers and 30 livestock traders were sampled for market data. Regressions were carried out to estimate food security and offtake models while descriptive analyses were done to assess performance of sheep and goat trade, and to rank problems affecting sheep and goat production and marketing. The results show that, price, flock size, remittance and season influence sheep and goat offtake (P<0.05). Percent offtake is low for households with large flocks and in the wet season. It is also low for households that have access to remittance. The main reason for sale is to satisfy cash needs for food purchases, medical bills, veterinary drugs and clothes. Thus sheep and goat sales contribute to the Rendille/Ariaalday to day survival needs. Low operating capital, poor roads, drought, high county council fees and fluctuation of prices were identified as the major problems limiting sheep and goat trade. These problems reduce traders' gross margins. The number of sheep/goats owned, season and household size (P<0.05) influence household food security. The cash available to each household member is inversely proportional to household size (P<0.05). The income from sale of sheep and goats contributed most to Rendille household cash income compared to earnings from cattle, camels and remittance. Based on the results of this study, pastoralists should be encouraged to sell their small stock during the wet season when livestock prices are high in order to improve their food security status. The market infrastructure should also be developed and restrictions on livestock movements reassessed and unnecessary ones lifted.