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Livestock business hubs unlock opportunities for pastoral women in East Africa

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Business hubs are a strong platform to improve access and inputs by women pastoralists

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Business hubs have proved to be a strong platform to improve access to markets and inputs by women farmers. Following the model’s success in a number of agricultural settings, a CTA-led initiative is seeking to adapt it to support women livestock owners and traders in East Africa.

In a hub approach, inputs and services are offered in a coordinated manner, either by a single supplier, or by public and private agribusiness partners that provide related inputs, market outlets and other services, such as extension, farmer advisory and financing services, all in a one-stop location. Dairy hubs have already had considerable success in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and East Africa. Through this model, farmers – mostly women – are ensured higher income, training and healthier animals, while the production of safe and affordable milk increases for consumers.

Although business hubs have worked for stall-fed dairy cattle, they would be a new innovation for pastoralists, and a boost to the growing number of pastoral women’s groups trading mainly in camels and small stock, such as sheep and goats. In order to develop livestock value chains that work for these women, it is vital to facilitate them with access to profitable markets and other livestock services.

Currently, access by women pastoralists to essential livestock services is hampered by their remote location and distance from commercial centres, where these services are usually located. Another factor is women’s restricted mobility, since they are unable to leave their homestead for extended periods of time.

A focal point for service providers

The CTA CLI-MARK project, now in its second year, is adapting the hub model to improve access to inputs and services for pastoralists, many of them women. Ten livestock markets in Kenya and Ethiopia are being transformed into business hubs that will sustain dry season livestock trade by providing pastoralists with a cluster of services that include blended weather information, animal health and veterinary services, fodder supply, transport, financial services, market information, livestock insurance and market development facilitation, thereby minimising the impact of drought on livelihoods.

The idea of the hubs is built on the premise that livestock markets function as the main convergence points for pastoralists from different geographical areas, as well as traders in livestock and other goods and services. Providers are likely to find it economically attractive to offer their products and services through the hubs, due to the economies of scale that these will generate.

As part of the business hub initiatives, Livestock Marketing Associations – committees of local community representatives responsible for the day-to-day management of livestock markets – will be coached and mentored on structured systems to help them to attract, engage and support those service providers keen to operate in the market. The livestock business hubs are expected to benefit more than 100,000 pastoralists overall. Of these, more than 50% are likely to be women and their households, and beneficiaries will also include 80 livestock-based enterprises for women and youth, operating in both Kenya and Ethiopia.

This article was created through a CTA-led process to document and share actionable knowledge on 'what works' for ACP agriculture. It capitalises on the insights, lessons and experiences of practitioners to inform and guide the implementation of agriculture for development projects.

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Why women are among the best clients for livestock insurance in East Africa

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The Index Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) programme was first launched in 2010, to help pastoralists deal with the effects of the severe droughts that are becoming increasingly frequent in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya and Ethiopia. The most recent figures show that some 15,000 livestock owners in the two countries have now purchased the product. Perhaps surprisingly, 45% of them are women.

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