Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Livestock Keeping in Urban Areas - Kenya

Zarina Ishani

Author of:
Scoping Study of Urban and Peri-Urban Poor Livestock Keepers in Nairobi.

Mazingira Institute
PO Box 14550 - 00800
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254 20 4443229/26/19
Fax: 254 20 4444643
Mazingira Institute

Importance of livestock keeping in cities.

An activity which is vital for the survival of poor urbanites and for reduction of poverty is urban agriculture. In Kenya and in Nairobi in particular, urban agriculture which includes crop production and livestock keeping is extremely important. A study published by the Mazingira Institute in 1985, estimated that there were about 1.4 million head of livestock kept in urban areas in Kenya, the asset value was approximately Kshs. 260 million. About fifty percent of the livestock were kept by low-income households. Almost ninety percent of the households kept livestock for subsistence and the rest as an asset. Since this time, the informal settlement communities have doubled in size as has, in all likelihood, the number of livestock.

According to a recent study, conducted by Lagrotech Consultants, on livestock keeping in Kisumu a town on the shores of Lake Victoria, over seven hundred households kept grade livestock, valued at Kshs.110 million (Stg. 1 million). The economic value to individual households was approximately Kshs. 151,000 (Stg. 1,370). Cattle fetched the highest value -- over fifty percent, followed by chickens, pigs, goats and sheep. The study showed that in order of importance, the livestock keepers, rated livestock for the following reasons: as an asset, food, subsistence, income and even gifts/social status. The products consumed were meat, milk and eggs. Animal manure was used on the farms and a small amount sold. Animals also provided draught power for tillage and transport.

Livestock management
A recent study on zoonoses (on-going) in a slum setting in Nairobi, conducted by Prof. Njenga Munene and Dr. James Wabacha, from the Department of Clinical Studies, University of Nairobithe Department of Clinical Studies, University of Nairobi, in collaboration with Nairobi and Environs Food Security, Agriculture and Livestock Forum (NEFSALF see coordinated by Mazingira Institute, showed significant cattle carcass condemnation due to: hydatidosis with an average of 1700 cases yearly between 2000 and 2003 and by cystercus bovis with an average of 260 condemnations for the same period. Similarly in sheep and goats, hydatidosis was the biggest cause of condemnation with an average of 600 and 850 cases respectively, for the same period. The aforementioned zoonoses study in Nairobi showed that households keeping pigs, sheep, goats and dogs, with few exceptions, allow them to roam freely.

Slum settings lack sanitation many of the households with livestock have no toilets. Human waste is frequently found on the walkways, in the drains and open spaces. Half of the livestock keepers in the slum disposed off animal waste into the drains, open sewers and dump sites. Sheep, pigs, poultry, dogs and cats are found scavenging for feed in the open spaces and dumpsites, where children often play and roam. The livestock keepers do not vaccinate their animals against diseases like anthrax, rabies or brucellosis. They have very limited knowledge of these diseases. Many are new to livestock keeping and are dependent on animal husbandry and animal health advice from more informed neighbours. School children, fruit and vegetable and milk hawkers seemed to know little about zoonoses. Many have seen the small white dog worm, but they do not associate it with hydatidosis. The zoonoses study involved community health and veterinary health service providers. The community health service providers indicated that salmonellosis and amoebiasis were the priority zoonootic diseases in the slum.

During their clinical work they found roundworms, tapeworms, brucellosis, Giardiasis, Campylobacteriosis, Bilhazia and fungal infections. Dog bites were also common, some of which could have been by rabid dogs. Records examined at a government and a community hospital and clinic, in the vicinity of the slum, showed that tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and helminthoses were the most frequently diagnosed diseases with potential for zoonoses. The government hospital diagnosed 35 cases of brucellosis -- 19 males and 16 females, in a month this year. At the community hospital, over a four-year period, recorded the following number of cases: tuberculosis 298; bacterial enteritis 283; protozoal enteritis 138; helminthoses 62; and brucellosis 5. The records at the health clinic showed that in a particular month the diseases diagnosed included 125 cases of helminthoses and 101 cases of diarrhoea. There were also over a four-year period, 260 cases of tuberculosis. Half of the affected were from the slum.

Challenges posed by livestock keeping

  1. Poor livestock management practices by livestock keepers leading to community health risks.
  2. Environmental risks associated with animals allowed to roam freely and due to large amounts of waste generated and left haphazardly.
  3. Enforcing of by-laws and regulations due to out dated by-laws governing urban agriculture.
  4. Coordination amongst the various concerned Ministries and the Local
  5. Authority.

Possible actions

  1. Engaging stakeholders through multi-stakeholder forums which include the community, government, market sectors and others such as acdemics, research organizations amongst others. This approach is being used by Mazingira Institute in its Nairobi and environs Food Securrity. Livestock and Agriculture Forum (NEFSALF).
  2. Carryiog out research on current situation and other 'unknowns' such as the prevalaence of zoonotic diseases amongst the livestock keepers.
  3. Production of relevant knowledge on livestock management practices.
  4. Training livestock keepers on proper livestock management practices.
  5. Dissemination of knowledge produced to relevant stakeholders.
  6. Using a multi-stakeholder approach of involving the government, community and others in the formulation of policy governing urban agriculture so taht the activity is both enabling and regulative.
  7. To ensure that urban plans incorporate urban agriculture and that all arms of the government are involved.

Search Our Site

pointer Return to Contents' Page pointer

May 11, 2006

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture