An increase in the frequency and severity of droughts, coupled with unpredictable weather patterns, is threatening the survival of some 20 million livestock keepers in Eastern Africa. Recent droughts have eroded pastoralists, adaptive capacity to such an extent that almost every one results in a humanitarian crisis. Traditionally, when there are serious droughts, governments and aid agencies move in with lots of resources,says Thomas Were, who manages CTA’s Climate, Livestock and Markets (CLI-MARK) project in northern Kenyan and southern Ethiopia.

This approach is unsustainable. What we are trying to do is enhance the resilience of pastoralist communities. Launched in 2017, the 2-year CLI-MARK project has three main components. One of these, implemented by the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), is designed to link pastoralists to the individuals and organisations that buy livestock, and encourage the establishment of new enterprises. CLI-MARK’s marketing component aims to reduce the influence of brokers and middlemen so that pastoralists get a better price,says Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, CTA’s Senior Technical Adviser for Value Chains and Agribusiness.

The other components involve scaling up livestock insurance and providing pastoralists with real-time weather information. It is estimated that the project will help 100,000 pastoralists become more resilient to climate change. If pastoralist communities are to flourish, they need to establish businesses which can continue to trade during difficult times. To this end, CLI-MARK has been improving the skills, knowledge and organisational capacity of 80 livestock-related enterprises associated with five markets in Kenya and five in Ethiopia. Most are managed by women and young people.

The organisations which run the markets have also benefited from training, as well as learning visits to other markets, abattoirs and major livestock companies. In Ethiopia, CLI-MARK has forged close working relationships with local government departments, which helped the project identify livestock-related enterprises, most of which were poorly organised and operating on a very small scale.

Two training sessions were attended by local government staff and five individuals from each of the 40 enterprises. CLI-MARK really helped us, says Garbole Jaldesa, secretary of a livestock buying enterprise which operates in Elwaye District. In the past, I didn’t really know how to assess the price of an animal, but I do now. CLI-MARK also linked me to some lead companies. I know what their specifications are now and we are negotiating an agreement.We’ve noticed that there is much better cooperation between different local government departments than there was before,says Zerihun Lemma, IIRR country director in Ethiopia.

There is now a Livestock Market Steering Committee for the five districts where the project operates, and the project also established a Livestock Marketing Forum, whose quarterly meetings are attended by government officials, CLI-MARK project staff, local enterprises and major livestock buyers. In partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), CLI-MARK is actively promoting index-based livestock insurance, which is described in greater detail in the Insurance saving lives and livelihoods.

Instead of insurance agents having to visit the field to verify whether animals have died, or are about to perish, the index triggers payments when the amount of forage falls below a certain level. The pastoralists can then use the money to buy fodder and hopefully keep their animals alive. The number of pastoralists taking advantage of the scheme has risen significantly with CTA support. The other key component of the project is an ICT-based weather information system.

A Kenyan technology company, Amfratech, packages weather information provided by aWhere, a US-based organisation specialising in data management, to be used by both pastoralists and organisations involved in rangeland management. The service was first piloted in Kenya.

Following its launch in November 2018, CTA partners IIRR and the Kenyan Livestock Marketing Council began a programme to promote the service. It is hoped that tens of thousands of pastoralists will eventually subscribe to the service. Real-time weather information will enable them to make crucial decisions about where and when to sell their livestock and how to plan their annual migrations.