‘Steaks’ are high! Bill to boost East Africa’s livestock sector  

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A bill seeking to provide guidelines to the transboundary movement of livestock as well as control of animal diseases within East Africa is in the offing.  

This comes after East African Legislative Assembly member Dr. Woda Jeremiah Odok introduced the envisaged EAC Livestock Bill 2020. 

If effected, the bill will grant a coordinated identification, characterization, mapping and enumeration of livestock.  It will also strengthen the detection, prevention and control of transboundary animal diseases and provide for a regulatory framework to monitor pastoral ecosystems.  

Livestock sector in EAC 

To understand why this bill is important one must appreciate the bloc’s livestock sector’s potential. East Africa’s livestock sector generates more than US$1 billion annually through the export of live animals and meat to the Middle East and North Africa. 

Livestock is primarily owned by pastoralists in East Africa, who mainly own camels, cattle, sheep, and goats. 

According to a recently released report by Malabo Montpellier Panel dubbed: ‘Meat, Milk & More: Policy innovations to shepherd inclusive and sustainable livestock systems in Africa’ pastoralism produces 90 percent of the meat consumed in East Africa.  “In Kenya, 60 to 65 percent of total meat supply originates from pastoralist systems, including imports from Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Pastoralism also provides 80 percent of the total annual milk supply in Ethiopia.” 

The East African Community (EAC), looking to tap into this huge and promising sector now aims to enhance livestock production for domestic consumption as well as exports within and outside the community. 

The goal of the EAC’s livestock development policy is to encourage a productive use of livestock assets and to increase resilience to climate-related risks such as droughts and extreme temperatures in order to secure livestock assets as well as improve and sustain growth in livestock productivity. 

So far, eight eastern African countries of the IGAD region: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are the leading exporters of livestock, accounting for 42 percent of the continent’s livestock exports.  

The study also predicts a spike in demand for animal-sourced foods from US$51 billion in 2007 to more than US$151 billion annually by 2050. This therefore creates important opportunities for African countries to improve their trade balances.  

Also Read: Sector Overview: East Africa’s Livestock sector

East Africa already has an advantage over other African regions given the uneven distribution of livestock resources across the continent—with over half of Africa’s livestock located in the East African region.  

This is an untapped potential for increasing the intra-African trade of livestock products and live animals. Furthermore, with the second largest livestock population in the world after Asia, Africa could own a significant share of the global livestock trade by ensuring that livestock products meet international quality and food safety standards. 

This is why the livestock bill envisages boosting national efforts made by Partner States to mitigate and address the challenges faced by pastoralists and their livestock within their territories.    

“Outbreaks of transboundary animal diseases cause devastating economic losses to pastoralists and livestock farmers and efforts for the Community to collectively prevent and control such diseases were vital. Such diseases among other things, cause negative impact on livestock agriculture, trade and food security, Dr. Odok said when presenting the bill.  

Challenges threatening to cripple the sector  

Some of the challenges according to Dr. Odok include those faced by pastoralists who live in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) within the Community, such as diminishing access to forage and water resources, pests and diseases.  

“The result is the deteriorating impact of natural disaster related to droughts, flooding and increasing levels of destitution. In addition, invasive alien species threaten the drylands, conflicts and rustling, lead to economic and political marginalization,”Dr. Odok stated.  

Dr. Odok said it was necessary for the Community to collectively step-up measures to harmonise and standardize systems for identification and characterization of livestock.  

The above measures as well as surveillance of livestock and wildlife in order to detect, prevent and control transboundary and zoonotic diseases are vital to establish and enhance early warning systems therefore ensuring rapid detection and control of disease outbreaks,” Dr. Woda told the House.  

Also read: Coronavirus Africa update: Tanzania shuts livestock markets

According to the legislator, the Bill will also promote regional peace and security. “The governments of Kenya and Uganda have continued to promote cross-border programmes for sustainable peace and socio-economic transformation among thKaramajong of Uganda, the Turkana people and the West Pokot people of Kenya,” Dr. Odok said. 

Other than providing guidelines to sustain and improve the performance of the livestock sector in the region, the bill also anticipates the establishment of a Livestock Fund.  The Council is expected, in accordance with the Financial Rules and Regulations, to establish a Community Livestock Fund which will be utilized to facilitate regional and national institutions conducting livestock, wildlife and primate research and vaccine development.  The fund will also facilitate detection, prevention and control of transboundary animal and zoonotic diseases. 

Update on the livestock trade in East Africa 

According to the World Food Programme’s East Africa Trade and Market Update, livestock conditions were good due to favourable rangeland conditions and prices remained stable at higher levels or increased even further in many pastoral markets in 2020.  

However, supply interruptions were triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak and the reduced demand for meat following the closure of livestock markets, hotels and restaurants, led to a decrease in livestock prices in parts of Kenya and the Karamoja Region of Uganda. 

A promising dairy industry 

Africa’s dairy sector also offers a wide array of opportunities for employment generation and entrepreneurship along its entire value chain. Given that the dairy sector is capital intensive, significant upfront and continuing investments are necessary by both public and private sector actors. There is opportunity, particularly in East Africa, to specialize in dairy production and to become key trade partners within the continent, especially under the African Continental Free Trade Area. It is not clear whether the bill will cover dairy farming, but it seeks to improve the livestock sector in general including factors affecting the industry as a whole. 

As if that is not enough, developing the livestock sector on the bloc also means creating job opportunities for youth and women which in turn boosts the livelihoods of the region’s population.  

This move is timely in that it is taking place when the region is recovering from the huge impact of the global pandemic.  

Livestock population in Africa Data

Also Read: Supporting Economic Resilience In Africa: Empowering Rural Communities  

Yvonne Kawira is an award winning journalist with an interest in matters, regional trade, tourism, entrepreneurship and aviation. She has been practicing for six years and has a degree in mass communication from St Paul’s University.

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