Livestock Research for Rural Development 25 (12) 2013 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Feed resources and utilization strategies in selected pastoral and agropastoral communities in Kenya

A J N Ndathi, E N Muthiani, J N Ndung’u, B P Ogillo, R K Kimitei, J K Manyeki, P N Katiku and W N Mnene

KARI - Kiboko Range Research Centre, P O Box 12 - 90138, Makindu Kenya,


Yearlong feed availability in adequate quantities and at affordable prices is a major requirement in livestock production. However, feed scarcity has continued to constrain livestock production especially during the droughts in Kenya. The Arid and Semi- Arid Lands (ASALs) are home to a wide variety of natural pastures produce large quantities of high quality feed materials. In addition, farmers in the ASALs also produce large quantities of crop residues. If properly managed, the natural pastures and crop residues can provide feed materials for yearlong livestock feeding. A team of scientists from four countries in ECA used reconnaissance and systematic surveys to identify feed plant species in the natural pastures of some selected pastoral and agro-pastoral communities. The team also gathered data on strategies used to avail feed to their livestock. The qualitative data collected was analyzed using the descriptive tool in SPSS version 12.

Some of the valued feed plant species in the natural pastures included Cynodon plectostachyus, Echnochloa haploclada, Aristida adscensionis, Grewia tenax, Lwsonia inermis, Acacia tortilis and Prosopis juliflora. Crop residues include maize stover, beans haulms and bananas stems and leaves. Feed conservation is not common (<25%) in most of the communities studied. The reasons for not conserving feeds included lack of skills (69%) and lack of storage facilities (21%). We conclude that there is need to identify and conserve feed species in the natural pastures and to build the capacity of pastoralists to improve feed conservation and utilization strategies for enhanced feed availability and livestock productivity in the ASALs.

Key words: ASALs, conservation, droughts, plant species


Livestock production in the ASALs is largely constrained by year-long availability of feeds (Mnene et al 2004, Kibet et al 2006, Abusuwar and Ahmed 2010). Feeds are abundant during the wet seasons and become limiting during the dry season (Abusuwar and Ahmed 2010). The natural pastures that support most of the livestock production in the ASALs are being degraded due to poor management systems. The wet season feed production, which exceeds the demand, is largely wasted and animals starve during the dry seasons and droughts, when the demand exceeds the supply. In the ASALs, palatable plant species are being lost due to the low value placed on them by extension agents while exotic plant species being introduced to replace them are not doing well in the ASALs (Teklu et al 2011). The low value place on indigenous plant species has largely been attributed to the limited knowledge on their feed value (Aregawi et al 2008, Osuga et al 2008). Irrigated crop production in areas with permanent water source is also producing large quantities of crop residues. Irrigated crop production in the ASALs is expected to expand because most of the higher potential areas have been occupied by settlements. However, most of this material being produced is being wasted because of poor feed management and utilization strategies. The competition for land to produce feed and food has often led to conflicts between the livestock keepers and crop farmers.

Dry seasons and droughts are major trying times for livestock producers in the ASALs (Morton 2006, Seo and Mendelsohn 2006, Orindi et al 2007). Livestock keepers suffer through the lack of feeds for their animals leading to decreased production and reproduction and in extreme cases deaths occur. The pastoralists also have to cover long distances in search of the scarce feed and water resources. However, during the wet seasons, natural pastures produce large quantities of biomass that if well managed can support yearlong livestock feed requirements. If biomass produced during the wet season is conserved and utilized properly, the problem of livestock feeds in the ASALs can be reduced. Currently, most of the pastoralists follow the animals into the grazing areas with little or no plans to address the feed crisis that comes during the dry seasons. Crop residue being produced also needs to be harnessed to contribute to livestock feeding especially during the dry seasons and droughts. Although migration has been used as an efficient way of utilizing the sparse feed resources in the ASALs, changing environments are making migration unsustainable. Conflicts between communities as they compete for land and resources especially during droughts and dry periods are becoming more frequent.

Degradation of plant biodiversity in our natural pasture is becoming a major threat to livestock production in the ASALs. There is need to identify plant species supporting livestock production in our natural pastures. Identification, characterization and increased utilization of these indigenous plant species in livestock production will increase their value hence enhance their conservation. In addition, there is need to identify plant species that will survive and produce required biomass under new environments being brought about by climate change (Galvin et al 2004, Gimenez 2006, Thornton et al 2007). There is also a felt need to identify appropriate feed harvesting and conservation strategies to ensure yearlong supply of feed in the ASALs (Galvin et al 2004, Sidahmed 2008, Lema and Majole 2009). The objectives of this study were therefore to identify feed materials (natural and crops) available to pastoralists in the ASALs, to identify feed conservation strategies being employed by the pastoralists in the ASALs and to identify feeding strategies being employed by pastoralists to utilize the feed materials.

Materials and methods

This study was conducted among the agropastoral and pastoral communities utilizing Taita Taveta, Tana River, Garissa, Baringo and Turkana counties in Kenya. Except in Taita Taveta where agropastoralism is a predominant practice, in all the other three counties, pure pastoralism is the major form of production. All the four counties are ASAL with a bimodal rainfall pattern characterized by short and long wet and dry seasons. Droughts are frequent in all the counties. The major livestock species kept are cattle, goats, sheep, camels and poultry. Livestock production is largely done using the natural pastures and crop residues from the irrigated crop production activities along permanent rivers.

Each of the study counties had two study sites one representing an agropastoral and the other a pure pastoral community. To collect data, a pretested semi-structured questionnaire was used where at least 75 housed were interviewed per site. Therefore, a total of 150 households were interviewed per county. The households were selected randomly using random numbers from a list of households in each site. The survey questionnaires were filled by trained enumerators from the local communities.

The survey data were analyzed for descriptive statistics using SPSS 12 (SPSS 2003). Plant species identification was done in the field during a latter visit or a plant sample taken for identification at the KARI Kiboko herbarium.


After identification of some of the plant species mentioned, important browse species were Grewia tenax, Lwsonia inermis, Prosopis juliflora, Acacia drepanolobium, Acacia tortilis, Lantana camara, Terminalia orbicularis, Cordia sinensis, Salvadhora persica, Cyathulia coriacea, Indifoera ambelacensis, Pluchea discoridis, Cordia quercifolia, Securinega virosa, Terminalia brevipes and Lecariodiscus flaxinifolius. Important herbaceous species included Cynodon plectostachyus, Evolvulus alsinoides, Blepharis liinarifolia, Echnochloa haploclada, Cyperus rotundus, Aristida adscensionis, Launea cornuta and Cenchrus ciliaris. Efforts are being made to get botanical names for other plant species listed using the local languages and conduct nutritional analysis to get their feed value.

Crop residues found in these counties include maize stover, maize cobs, beans haulms, banana stems and banana leaves. In Tana River most of the households said that browse and grasses were plenty, 76% and 63% respectively. However, the crop residues were not plenty with only 35% of the households saying they had plenty. Similarly in Taita Taveta, the browse and the grass were plenty, 72% and 58% respectively. Most (71%) of the households said that crop residues were scarce. At Marigat, Baringo County, the browse was plenty (68%) but the grass and crop residue were scarce, 60% and 62% respectively. In Garissa County, most households said that they had plenty of browse and grass, 73% and 80% respectively. However, no household said that crop residue was plenty. In Turkana County, most of the feed resources were said to be limiting. Browse and crop residue were said to be unavailable by most, 65% and 93% respectively while only 43% of the households said grass was plenty.

Feed conservation is not common among most of the communities involved this survey. At Tana River and Taita Taveta, only 24% and 44% of the households practiced any feed conservation respectively. Similarly, in Garissa and Baringo, few households conserve feeds, 33% and 12% respectively while in Turkana, no household was conserving feeds. The major reasons why the pastoralists and agropastoralists in these study areas do not conserve feeds were lack of skills (69%) and lack of storage facilities (21%). Others reasons such as lack of funds and not having adequate feeds to conserve were only mentioned by few households (<10%).


The ASALs are endowed with a rich biodiversity of nutritious plant species that are important for livestock production. However, knowledge on the local names of the plant species is low. This has hindered the identification and characterization of these important feed resources for livestock production. The few that are mentioned during feed resource surveys are the most commonly known plant species which may not be the most important. This same constraint was encountered while conducting a similar study in Makueni County (Ndathi et al 2012). This resulted in the list of plant species mentioned being short. There is an urgent need to assist pastoral communities in passing their knowledge on feed resource identification and the names. The invasive Prosopis juliflora (Mirashia, Mathenge) plant species was mentioned as an important plant species because most of the study sites were selected on the basis of having this plant. In Baringo, Acacia tortilis (Eldepe) has continuously been mentioned as an important feed plant pecies (Osuga et al 2008, Ndathi et al 2012). The grass Cynondon spp. (Ikoka) was also confirmed as an important grass species in the ASALs as also reported by Ndathi et al (2012).

These results also present a common scenario in the ASALs where feed is in plenty during the wet seasons and scarce during the dry seasons. This survey was carried out in December which is at the mid-point of the wet season in most of the study area. With climate change, browse is expected to be favoured over grasses. There is need to identify ways of making the browse contribute more to livestock feeding. One way of doing this is by including the pods or leaves in supplementary feeding formulations. However, as observed by Mogotsi et al 2011, the diets of livestock in the arid areas are largely made up of browse during the dry seasons.

The agropastoral communities in these areas use permanent water bodies and rivers for their crop production. However, the crop residue produced is low compared to what is available from the natural pastures. This results in these feed materials being disregarded as a feed source for livestock production. With more and more areas being opened for irrigated crop production and more pastoralists being settled, crop residues will be expected to play a bigger role. If well utilized maize stover can contribute much to livestock feed as reported in other areas (Methu et al 2001). There is need to develop better conservation and utilization strategies for these residues other than the in situ utilization strategy commonly used. Among the Counties studied, Turkana is the driest hence feed resource was expected to be more limiting.

Livestock production in the ASALs of Kenya is done on extensive communally owned landscapes. Although, the pastoralists indicated that they do not conserve feeds because of lack of skill, communal ownership of land resource and the large number of animals kept per household is also a hindrance. This may require that conservation of feed resources be done in situ within the grazing areas through by laws on conservation and utilization.



Abusuwar A O and Ahmed E.O. 2010 Seasonal variability in nutritive value of ruminant diets under open grazing system in the semi-arid rangeland of Sudan (South Darfur State). Agricultural and Biology Journal of North America, 2010, 1(3): 243 – 249.

Aregawi T, Melaku S and Nigatu L 2008 Management and utilization of browse species as livestock feed in semi-arid district of North Ethiopia. Livestock Research for Rural Development. Volume 20, Art. # 86.

Galvin K A, Thornton P K, Boone R B and Sutherland J 2004 Climate variability and impacts on east African livestock herders: the Maasai of Ngorongoro conservation area Tanzania. African Journal of range and forage science, 21(3), pp 183 – 189.

Gimenez A 2006 Climate change and variability in the mixed crop/livestock production systems of the Argentinean, Brazilian and Uruguayan pampas. Report on assessment of impacts and adaptations to climate change (AIACC). Project No. LA 27.

Kibet P F K, Karimi S K, Gitunu A M M and Ogillo B P 2006 Priority setting report for the National Range Research Centre (NRRC), Kiboko. KARI Report.

Lema M A and Majole A E 2009 Impacts of climate change, variability and adaptive strategies on agriculture in semi-arid areas of Tanzania. The case of Manyoni District in Singida region, Tanzania. African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. Vol.3(8), pp 2006-218.

Methu J N, Owen E, Abate A L and Tanner J C 2001 Botanical and nutritional composition of maize stover, intakes and feed selection by dairy cattle. Livestock Production Science, Volume 71, pp.87 – 96.

Mnene W N, Muthiani E N, Ndung’u J N, Manyeki J K and Ndathi A J N 2004 Assessment of possible activities for increased resilience of agro-pastoral and pastoral communities to crises in southern Kenya. Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)/ ASARECA Animal Agricultural Research Network (A-AARNet) Report.

Mogotsi K, Nyangito M M and Nyariki D M 2011 The perfect drought? Constraints limiting Kalahari agro-pastoral communities from coping and adapting. African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. Vol. 5(3), pp 168-177.

Morton J 2006 Policy options paper: community based drought management for the pastoral livestock sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. Partnership for livestock development, poverty alleviation & sustainable growth (ALIVE).

Ndathi A J N, Nyangito M M, Musimba N K R and Mitaru B N 2012 Farmers’ preference and nutritive value of selected indigenous plant feed materials for cattle in drylands of south-eastern Kenya. Livestock Research for Rural Development. Volume 24, Article #28.

Orindi V A, Nyong A and Herero M 2007 Pastoral livelihood adaptation to drought and institutional interventions in Kenya. Human Development Report Office. Occasional paper 54.

Osuga I M, Wambui C C, Abdulrazak S A, Ichinohe T and Fujihara T 2008 Evaluation of nutritive value and palatability by goats and sheep of selected browse foliages from semi-arid area of Kenya. Animal Science Journal. Volume 79, pp. 582 – 589.

Seo S N and Mendelsohn R 2006 The impact of climate change on livestock management in Africa: a structural Richardian Analysis. Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa (CEEPA) Report.

Sidahmed A 2008 Livestock and Climate Change: Coping and Risk Management Strategies for a Sustainable Future. In Livestock and Global Climate Change conference proceeding, May 2008, Tunisia.

Statistical Procedures for Social Sciences SPSS 2003 Version 12, Illinois, Chicago, USA.

Teklu B, Negesse T and Angassa A 2011 Effects of farming systems on livestock feed resources and feeding systems in Benishangul-Gumuz region, western Ethiopia. International Research Journal of Agricultural Science. Volume 1(1) pp. 020-028.

Thornton P, Herrero M, Freeman A, Mwai O, Rege E Jones P and Mcdermott J 2007 Vulnerability, climate change and livestock – research opportunities and challenges for poverty alleviation. SAT, Volume 4 Issue 1.

Received 6 November 2013; Accepted 18 November 2013; Published 1 December 2013

Go to top