System characteristics and management practices for small ruminant production in “Climate Smart Villages” of Kenya

The CGIAR research programme on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security, in collaboration with several partners is testing a portfolio of interventions to address the threat of changing climatic conditions for smallholder farming communities living beside river flood plains, grouped into “Climate Smart Villages” (CSVs). We present characteristics of farms in CSV in relation to small ruminant (SR) production and the scenario for a breeding and improvement programme. Information was collated using participatory systems research methods from 140 households in seven CSVs in Nyando basin, Kenya. Although most households were headed by men, there were a higher proportion of adult women within the communities, and literacy levels were moderate. A total of 58 percent of the population owned <1 ha of land for growing crops and rearing on average 6.96 ± 3.35 Tropical Livestock Units comprising different species of animals. Women headed households owned more sheep which were mainly crosses of unspecified local breeds, than Goats which were mainly the Small East African breed-type. Mating among the SR was random, with no control of inbreeding as flocks mixed in grazing fields and at water points. Farmers desired large and resilient animals for better market prices; however, growth rates were slow. The SR flocks were dynamic with 31 percent of the animals moving in and out of flocks in a year. A community breeding programme optimally using available resources and incorporating gender integrated innovative technologies could be implemented for the CSV, alongside strong capacity development on animal husbandry, health and marketing of products.