The Northern Rangelands Trust is an organisation that supports the growing number of community conservancies in the north of Kenya. These conservancies aim to transform lives, secure peace, and conserve natural resources. One of NRT’s flagship projects is the Livestock to Markets programme, part of NRT’s commercial arm, NRT Trading.
Livestock are a way of life for the majority of people in northern Kenya. Recently however, increasing populations, climate change, and overgrazing has devastated large swathes of grassland, affecting wildlife as well as livestock. Conflict between pastoralists for good grazing and water access has led to ethnic tension and violence.
Another major obstacle is lack of accessible and equitable livestock markets for these pastoralists. Currently, many pastoralists trek their cattle great distances, at significant risk, in order to reach the nearest market. Once there, they must often accept inequitable prices from an entrenched network of middlemen and brokers. Many pastoralists thus lack the incentives to manage livestock for ready markets, amassing overly large herds and expending resources on cattle that represent limited economic value (since they are hard to sell). This risk-based production system is especially detrimental during times of drought, when the fear of cattle starvation leads many pastoralists to unload their animals on exploitative markets at rock-bottom prices, or risk losing up to 70% of their herd in years of extreme drought.
The Livestock to Market Programme aims to change all this.
NRT works with the communities to establish and meet certain standards in conservation, livestock management, financial transparency and community governance. NRT then buys cattle from communities that have met these standards, transports them via Lewa Wildlife Conservancy for quarantine to Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Ol Pejeta holds, fattens and slaughters them on site, and links NRT to market networks. This provides improved market access for the pastoralist communities, often with higher prices than at traditional markets, reduces the risk of losses from drought, the need for excessive herds, and provides incentives for better rangeland management.