Valuation of Genetically Determined Cattle Attributes Among Pastoralists of Kajiado District: Implications for Breed Conservation
Domestic animal diversity in developing countries is embedded in traditional farming and pastoral communities who manage their livestock according to their indigenous knowledge and in tune with local constraints. Especially in marginal environments, local livestock breed/rare crucial for sustaining rural livelihoods by producing a wide range of products while requiring relatively low levels of input with regard to fodder, management and health care. Compared with other livestock species, cattle stand out across developing countries in terms of provision of nonmarket services, including draught power, manure, risk management through hedging, asset storage, community bonding, and ceremonial services, amongst others. Therefore the maintenance of the adapted cattle breeds is ecologically more sustainable and will ensure sustainable food and livelihood provision for communities. However, economic forces of globalization as well as political backing for crossbreeding with exotic breed, among other factors have already resulted in the extinction of a large number of breeds and many more are threatened. Kajiado district in Kenya is inhabited mainly by the Maasai pastoralist community who are at the crossroad of socio-economic transition. It is widely recognized that the cattle they tend represent a unique genetic resource. This study identifies attributes of the cattle breed they keep as being specific for their purposes and unique to their production system. Consumer theory was used in the theoretical framework of the study. The study involved the use of conjoint analysis to identify the cattle attributes valued by the pastoral cattle producers and rank these attributes, all of which have not been valued through the conventional market system. Results indicate that adaptability traits, feed requirements and drought tolerance are more valued by the pastoralist in the study area than productivity traits (milk and meat production). That household characteristics condition the valuation of cattle attributes was evident. Presence of off-farm income, land size owned by the household, formal education of the household head and location of the household were critical determinants during the valuation. One implication is that, distinguishing differences in preference between groups of respondents in connection with specific socio-economic, agro-ecological zones and production system can be used to promote conservation-through-use of breeds at risk of extinction.