African Journal of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development ISSN: 2375-0693 Vol. 3 (7), pp. 253-265, August, 2015. © International Scholars Journals

Full Length Research Paper

Economic and socio-cultural evaluation of livestock farming amid severe soil degradation in Western Kenya

Yuko Yamane and Shuichi Asanuma

International Cooperation Center for Agricultural Education (ICCAE), Nagoya University Furo-cho, Chikusa, Nagoya, Aichi, 464-8601, Japan. +81-52-789-4225.

Corresponding author. E-mail: yamane@agr.nagoya-u.ac.jp. +81-52-789-4225 / +81-52-789-4222

Accepted 16 May, 2015

Abstract

This paper analyzes, from both economic and socio-cultural perspectives, the roles of livestock in the livelihoods of western Kenya’s Luo people, who live in an area facing severe soil erosion due to overgrazing. Forty-five households within the study area were surveyed and studied through participatory observation over 10 months. We classified them into five groups depending on their livestock keeping and examined the groups’ socioeconomic characteristics in order to link livestock to livelihoods. The results show that households in the two groups owning the most livestock included many paternal extended families and their widows. The former group tended to live under unfavorable economic conditions, with comparatively lower off-farm incomes and negative post-food-purchase incomes. On the centrally, the latter group did not show negative post-food-purchase income due to smaller number of family members. However, these both groups’ households also obtained large shares of their livestock through socio-cultural methods, such as entrustment, gifts, and marriage payments. After obtaining higher incomes by selling these livestock, they were able to pay school fees for their children, allowing them to access to a better future through education. The results demonstrate the importance of socio-cultural methods for obtaining livestock, which work through reciprocity. This has clear policy implications: when devising countermeasures to overgrazing, policymakers must consider both economic and socio-cultural roles played by livestock.

Key words: Entrustment, Livestock, Livelihood, Pastoralist, Reciprocity, Overgrazing, Socio-cultural motivation, Soil erosion.

Abbreviations used: Kenyan shilling (Ksh), meters above sea level (masl), tropical livestock units (TLU).