From left: Mr. Tyson Lemako, Director of Agriculture; Dorina Prech, KM & Advocacy Officer; Hon. Vincent Learaman, CEC DALF; and Elim Limlim, LSS Project Officer

Samburu County – located in the north rift and covering approximately 21,000 Km2 – is the tenth county to join the FCDC regional economic bloc, having been admitted in September 2018 in Kapenguria, West Pokot County.

In June 2019, the Livestock Sector Strengthening project team visited Samburu County, hosted by the County Agriculture Minister, Mr. Vincent Learaman. The purpose of this visit was to be able to understand the livestock and agriculture sector, including the key priority areas and players supporting the sector.

It was also an opportunity to visit some of the agricultural projects, with view of learning best practices that can be transferred to other FCDC counties.

Agriculture department

The Department has a total of 66 technical staff: 33 in agriculture, 24 in veterinary services, 3 in fisheries and 7 in livestock production. The latter is the most challenged, with the 7 staff traversing the 3 sub-counties of Samburu county. A number of reasons were given for this challenge.

First, most of the technical staff in livestock are retiring at an alarming rate, and those that are there are nearing retirement. Most of these staff were previously employed by national government. Secondly, a number of the livestock experts that were based in Samburu hailed from other parts of Kenya. With the advent of devolution, there was a massive transfer of staff to their home counties, leaving Samburu severely disadvantaged.

Even more worrying for the county, and in many FCDC counties is that most of the technical staff are nearing retirement age. Most locals have enrolled in other courses other than agricultural courses. It is critical that pastoralist youth are encouraged to apply for agriculture and livestock related courses in their tertiary education.

The above challenges notwithstanding, the Department has made strides in promoting commercialization of livestock, value addition, and livelihood diversification.

Policies and bills

In terms of developing bills and policies for livestock and agriculture, the department has a Livestock Policy, A Livestock Sales Yard Act to provide for the establishment and management of sale yards in the county; and Agricultural Machinery Act which provides for the establishment of agricultural machinery services and to provide for the institutional framework for the development and regulation of the same.

The county has purchased 29 tractors which are distributed to the ward level for farmers use. They also include planters and bailers, all of which the farmer only meets the cost of fuel and labor for the drivers.

The Samburu honey

Bee keeping is one of the priority value chains for Samburu County, and has recruited a Beekeeping Officer who had gone on retirement but was brought back due to his expertise and passion in beekeeping. There are plans to train more beekeeping officers, and for the producers to be also trained on bee management. The department is keen on determining the quality of Samburu honey, and has invited researchers, regulators and quality assurance agencies to the county.

Pure Samburu honey processed by Samburu Beekeepers Cooperative Society. Most of it is delivered to Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club in Nairobi

The team also met with key stakeholders and projects in the agriculture sector, including Boma project, The National Drought Management Authority, Regional Pastoral Livelihoods Resilience Project, NARIGP, Agriculture Sector Coordination Project, Nutrition and Health Plus, among others.

Meeting with Mr. Harisson Atibu, NDMA’s County Drought Response Officer

As Boma explained their poverty graduation model, it was interesting to note that 50% of the businesses led by the women groups is the sale and buying of livestock, particularly small stock. The members also reward themselves with buying each other small stock once they make profit. This is a clear indicator of the value of livestock to the livelihoods of pastoralists in Samburu. It is no wonder that Samburu is one of the counties that has allocated more than 10% of its annual budget to the agriculture and livestock sector.