Women’s involvement in pastoral value chains in Kenya
Development planners often overlook the vital role that pastoralist women play in livestock production. The study “Women’s engagement in pastoral value chains in northern Kenya” (2014, 64pp), conducted by CARE International, sought to develop a better understanding of constraints and opportunities shaping women’s prospects for becoming more engaged in the pastoral value chain.
The study, focused on Marsabit County, found that women are generally most involved at lower levels of the value chains, where they care for small and sick stock near the home and are responsible for milking, processing the milk into ghee and yoghurt, and marketing these products. They usually access only local markets and are prone to exploitation by intermediary (usually male) traders. Men are the main actors in the higher levels of the value chains. The social and cultural norms in the pastoralist society limit women’s access to ownership of large stock and to services such as credit, training, extension, inputs and marketing networks. Milk is regarded as women’s responsibility, and the proceeds from selling milk products remain in women’s hands. Despite the key roles that women play in handling milk, they receive little or no training in product hygiene and value addition. By engaging in self-help groups, pastoralist women have gradually become more involved in buying and selling sheep and goats.
Small-scale dairy development and deepening women’s asset ownership through self-help groups are promising pathways toward economic empowerment of women. The study recommends a.o.: i) strengthening the organisational capacity of women’s groups; ii) building women’s capacities in entrepreneurial skills and leadership; iii) developing value-chain action plans for enhancing women’s participation; iv) supporting mobilisation of women’s producer groups; v), developing a pool of women para-professionals, vi) improving rural road infrastructure; and vii) providing value-chain innovation grants for women.