Enhancing agro-pastoralists’ resilience amongst the Endorois youth and women towards indigenous food sovereignty
The pastoralist Endorois community in the target area have practised transhumance indigenous cattle rearing since time immemorial. The areas of Kapkuikui, Kaptombes and Sandai are climatically semi-arid and has been classified as an Arid and Semi-Arid Land and in an agro-pastoral marginalized small-holder area.
Up to the early 1990s, the Endorois led a full-time pastoralist lifestyle, keeping the indigenous Zebu breed of cattle, however, subsistence farming of maize began with the increase in population exacerbated by diminishing grazing fields and to some extend, desertification. The community grazing fields have further drastically reduced with the conversion into wildlife sanctuaries. The indigenous Zebu cow is facing extinction with the introduction of the exotic breeds which the government has promoted in inter-breeding ostensibly to increase milk and beef. Unfortunately, some of our farmers are beginning to adopt this new practice and the expense of drought-resistant, culturally sovereign Zebu cattle.
Global warming and its effects have hit the Endorois hard with the disrupted rainfall patterns. Their swamps shrink by the day, livestock numbers have drastically reduced since most of them die during the dry spell which happens between the months of January and April. We have noted that due to changing livestock breeds and unclear government policy support, these weakened hybrids die in large numbers thus leaving the farmers poorer. But, back in time, our pure breeds could survive the harshest draughts even with transhumance because of their adaptability.
This project, therefore, aims to attach great importance to the indigenous Zebu cow among the Endorois people through the introduction of household fodder farming within homesteads. The fodder will be in the form of indigenous Pokot and Star grass which is resilient to long droughts. The project further aims to sensitize the target group on how to appreciate their pure breeds of cows and grass at the same time adding value to product quality with increased fodder and modern management.
The group will be empowered on the significance of destocking and further grazing their cows within enclosed farms where they will grow grass. The women on their part will be able to get sufficient milk to feed their families throughout the year from well-managed herds. Traditionally, the Endorois womenfolk and youth left by their families to herd emaciated cattle throughout the day between almost empty community grazing fields and dams and sometimes drying river beds. It is during the time of the drought when each family loses many of their livestock mainly cows due to diminishing grass. At the onset of the rains in May, the grazing fields will be full of grass and the Endorois will begin the efforts of restocking and replenishing their indigenous cattle with the remaining stock. It is notable that the intensity of the drought varies from year to year.
The project will further achieve other positive effects which include ensuring environment conservation since empty land will have grass vegetation thus controlling erosion.
Basically, this is a pilot project aimed at addressing harsh dry climatic conditions between January and May strengthening the resilience of more than 200 Zebu cattle, ultimately helping more than 50 families stay afloat during the most challenging time of the year. We hope this can be replicated or extended to benefit more households.
With the support of IFAD and Slow Food, Jamii Asilia implemented this pilot project to mitigate the effects of global warming and as a way to strengthen the value chain of indigenous cattle breeds in food sovereignty among the Endorois youth and women. The most pressing challenges are access to land and agro-finance.
Jamii Asilia Centre, in consultation with the agro-pastoralist communities, continues to design and implement projects that promote sustainable food heritage to scale socio-economic development to support the attainment of United Nations Sustainable Goals (SDGs) 1 (no poverty), 2(zero hunger) and 13(climate action)