The contribution of camel milk production as a livelihood strategy for building pastoral resilience in the dry lands of Kenya
Yazan, Ahmed Mohamed Elhadi
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Pastoral production system in Kenya is facing many challenges such as high livestock mortality, high incidence of malnutrition and marginalisation. This has been worsened by the impact of climate variability and change which has rendered most of the traditional coping strategies ineffective, leading to vulnerable and insecure pastoral livelihood systems. One of the main pastoral adaptations to the increasingly unpredictable climate and diminishing grazing resources has been adoption of drought tolerant livestock species such as the camel. Despite the indications of the capability to alleviate the vulnerability of pastoral communities to droughts and emerging climate extremes associated with climate change, the potential of camel production is yet to be fully exploited. This may be partly attributed to dearth of information to guide the development of the sub-sector. This study was motivated by the lack of empirical evidence on the potential of camel milk production to build resilience of pastoral households’ livelihoods in the drylands of Kenya. The study used a multistage sampling approach to collect data, through a semi-structured questionnaire. The food basket approach was used to determine the contribution of camel milk to household food basket. Value chain analysis was carried out to determine the functionality and profitability of the milk chain. Further, the study adopted a simultaneous equation model, through a two-stage least squares approach, to determine the factors influencing camel milk production, and a multinomial logistic model to estimate the determinants of the choice of camel milk market outlets. The food basket analysis showed that camel milk contributes significantly (P ≤ 0.05) to the pastoral household food basket and income during the wet and dry seasons. Additionally, the value chain results showed that camel milk trade is profitable and thus has the ability to derive pastoral household income. However, actors along the chain were faced with various constraints such as poor hygiene practices, poor infrastructure, high cost of inputs and poor prices. This study found that daily camel milk production was positively significantly (P ≤ 0.05), affected by camel herd size, education level of the producer, household size, distance to grazing point, labour, and access to climate information and extension services. The same was negatively and significantly (P ≤ 0.05) influenced by the distance to the water point. Furthermore, the results indicate that the likelihood of selling milk to bulking centres was negatively and significantly (P ≤ 0.05) influenced by access to market information, experience of camel milk producer and distance to bulking centre, and positively influenced by the camel herd size and daily milk production. On the other hand, selling to wholesaler marketing outlets was positively and significantly (P ≤ 0.05) influenced by the age of the producer, camel herd size, daily milk production and the price offered at the wholesaler outlets, while it was negatively and significantly influenced by the experience of camel milk producers and the distance covered to wholesaler marketing outlets. Based on the food basket analysis, there is need to invest in the camel milk subsector by creating enabling policies that enhance milk production, consumption and marketing, and to mainstream the use of camel products as a way to strengthen households’ resilience to climatic variability and change. As suggested by value chain results, there is need for a holistic intervention that includes proper marketing development, general infrastructure development and investing in technologies that reduce input and handling costs. Furthermore, any efforts to improve camel milk production must consider investing in herding labour and the camel herd through strategies such as proper breeding, provision of suitable veterinary and extension services and climate information. Moreover, investment in integration of the otherwise subsistence pastoral production into the mainstream market economy will help facilitate the access of better markets by camel milk producers. This approach will ensure that the remote areas open up thereby exposing pastoralists to wider choices from the existing array of established markets. These interventions, among others, will strengthen the ability of camel milk producers to participate effectively in those markets with higher benefits, which will consequently improve their income security and, therefore, enhance pastoral household resilience.