Small ruminants provide very important genetic resources that can be exploited for continued improvements of the livelihoods of poor livestock keepers in the pastoral production system, particularly in the developing country situation, Kenya being one of them. Though important, the motivation of livestock keepers to hold and maintain particular AnGr in conditions of decreasing animal genetic resource base is imperfectly understood. Consequently, in an endeavour to improve the livelihoods of resource-poor small ruminant livestock keepers, it is important to understand the underlying drive that motivates livestock keepers to keep and maintain particular AnGR. This can be achieved if producer responses in production that lead to either loss or conservation of these resources are sufficiently known. This study contributes to the existing knowledge gap by analysing the status of small ruminant breeds in the pastoral production system in Marsabit district of Kenya. Primary data, collected from livestock keepers using structured questionnaires, revealed that small ruminants contribute enormously towards livestock keepers’ livelihoods, especially the poor, and subsequently, to conservation of the resource. The results obtained from multinomial logit models derived from stated choice data collected from 314 respondents in the semi-arid Marsabit district of Kenya reveal that disease resistance is the most highly valued trait whose resultant augmentation results into a welfare improvement of up to KShs.3082 and 1480 in goats and sheep, respectively. In goats, drought tolerance and milk traits were found to be implicitly valued for up to KShs.2695 and 1163 respectively, while in sheep, drought tolerance and fat deposition traits were found to be implicitly valued at KShs.973 and 748 respectively. The study further revealed that improvement in milk trait in does, body size and disease resistance traits in bucks, and drought tolerance trait in both does and bucks will collectively improve the producers’ welfare hence should be given priority. However, improvement in the reproduction and production (“overall body condition/ meatiness” trait) potential of goats will be worthwhile only if issues concerning access to pasture and water resources are addressed prior and simultaneously. The results further point out that for livestock stakeholders to effectively improve the livelihoods of poor livestock-keepers, development strategies for improving the management and/ or utilisation of small ruminant genetic resources in terms of drought tolerance in sheep, should not only be tailor made to target regions that are frequently devastated by drought but should also precede other strategies or efforts that would first lead to the improvement of producers’ economic status.

Background of the Study 
Indigenous sheep and goat breeds constitute 95 percent of the small ruminant population of Africa; they are owned by the majority of smallholder rural farmers for whom this resource is critical for nutrition and income (Rege, 1994). Small ruminants are widespread in the tropics and are important to the subsistence, economic and social livelihoods of a large human population in these areas especially women, children and the aged, who are often the most vulnerable members of the society in terms of under nutrition and poverty (Lebbie and Ramsay, 1999). 

Small ruminants also play a complementary role to other livestock in the utilisation of available feed resources and provide one of the practical means of using vast areas of natural grassland in regions where crop production is impractical (Baker and Rege, 1994). Thus in face of the declining crop yields due to movement of cropping onto marginal soil types and diminishing fallow periods, improvement in the production of sheep and goats (management, nutrition and health care and/or by genetic improvement) is likely to improve the welfare of smallholders (Peacock, 1987). According to Orden et al. (2005), among livestock, small ruminants, particularly goats, possess inherent characteristics (refer to section 4.1.) that could provide a comparative advantage in production compared with large ruminants, poultry and swine. 

In Kenya, small ruminants are predominantly kept under pastoral production systems in Arid and Semi-Arid areas (Kinyamario and Ekeya, 2001). Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) cover 80 per cent of the total land surface and provide subsistence economy to 25 per cent of the population who are mainly pastoralists and agropastoralists (GOK, 2002). These areas have experienced high levels of poverty over the years with the prevalence of overall poverty being high in these areas. For instance, the government’s report on the geographic dimensions of well - being in Kenya in 2005, revealed that 64 percent and 58 percent of the population in North Eastern and Eastern Provinces respectively, were living below the poverty line (Daily Nation, 02/11/2005). 

The livestock sector in Kenya, accounts for about 10 percent of the GDP and over 30 percent of farm gate value of agricultural commodities; employs over 50 percent of agricultural labour force; and provides substantial raw material for local dairy, meat, hides and skins processing industries (GOK, 1997). The livestock population in Kenya was estimated at 14.6 million cattle, 8.2 million sheep, 10.6 million meat goats, 33.3 million poultry, 0.87 million camels and 0.35 million pigs in 2002 (GOK, 2002). At the national level, the sheep and goat industry contributes about 30 percent of the total red meat consumed in the country (GOK, 2003). 

One of the country’s greatest assets is its livestock diversity (Carles et al., 1986). Diversity within a livestock species is reflected in the range of types and breeds that exist and in the intra-breed and intra-type variations (NRC, 1993). The indigenous small ruminant genetic resources (SRGRs) are a source of livelihood to the poor livestock-keepers; however, their genetic diversity is being eroded rapidly due to lack of adequate knowledge on incentives that support their sustainable utilisation (Delgado et al, 1999). The gradual and continuous erosion of animal genetic resources (AnGR) is recognised as a major threat to agro-biodiversity, agricultural sustainability and the livelihoods of many farmers (Drucker et al, 2001). The range of genetic diversity in livestock species must be preserved and maintained as foundation stocks for future improvements and adjustments to changing production conditions (NRC, 1993).

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Item Type: Kenyan Topic  |  Size: 160 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.


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