Cows for conservation? Solving the domestic livestock conundrum in east Africa’s savannah landscapes


Context: In northern Kenya, the most significant remaining opportunities for wildlife conservation exist on land that is classified as semi-arid. Pastoralist communities who depend on livestock for their livelihood inhabit these areas and operate a risk-based livestock management model whereby significant livestock herds are accumulated over several years then depleted by periodic drought. This is driven by the semi-arid context, the impact of changing land use on historic nomadic migrations, cultural heritage, poverty, and a lack of efficient access to markets. It is both environmentally and economically wasteful. 

The Investment: African Wildlife Capital invested US$ 250K to seed the development of a pioneering commercial trading partnership (the Linking Livestock Markets to Conservation program) between one of Kenya’s largest private sector commercial livestock operations and a growing base of pastoralist communities across northern Kenya. By securing more reliable, higher margin access to established markets a basis is being created to move from a risk-based to a more sustainable budget-based paradigm.  Membership of the programme is dependent on a demonstrable and sustained commitment by partner local communities to a range of conservation driven criteria.
The project has the potential to work with a range of communities potentially numbering several thousand individuals over time across a very large conservation landscape. It is currently trading more than US$ 1 million worth of cattle per year (US$ 3 million total to date) and nearly 1,500 individual members from 10 different community conservancies have already traded with the scheme. Since AWC seeded this project a further US$ 7 million of financing has been invested by Naturevest to scale up the programme with a view to expanding annual trading activity to c. 10,000 head per annum (c. US$ 4 million per annum at today’s prices) by 2018.