Identifying local innovations in pastoral areas in Marsabit County, Kenya

Identifying local innovations in pastoral areas in Marsabit County, Kenya

Identifying local innovations in pastoral areas in Marsabit County, Kenya 

by Brigitte Kaufmann, William Nelson, Raphael Gudere, Vince Canger, David Golicha, Markus Frank, Hassan Roba, Okeyo Mwai and Christian Hülsebusch German
Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL) at the Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences of the University of Kassel
funded by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
2012, 36 pages 

This manual provides insight into the methods used and the experiences gained while identifying local innovations in pastoral areas in northern Kenya. It targets a wider audience, ranging from multipliers working with pastoral communities, development professionals, and decision makers to students and academic scholars focusing on the field of innovations and their generation and diffusion.

It is intended as a source book for both, people interested in the topic of “local innovations in pastoral areas and their identification and documentation” and for those interested in the specific local innovations that were identified in Marsabit County as such.

The authors would like to promote the identification of local innovations as one possible bottom-up strategy to learn about and to spread innovations in pastoral areas. Many top-down approaches that aimed at introducing innovations from outside have failed, because they have underestimated the context-specificity of pastoral production.

The authors start out from the point of view that any innovation needs to fit into the respective local production processes, which are constrained by a combination of particular and specific environmental, socio-cultural and economic conditions.


Mutual learning of livestock keepers and scientists for adaptation to climate change in pastoral areas (Small grant founded by BMZ)
Project partners:

  • German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL),
    Witzenhausen, Germany (PD Dr. B. Kaufmann, Dr. C. Hülsebusch)
  • Kenya agricultural research Institute (KARI), Nairobi, Kenya (Dr. S. Kuria)
  • International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya (Dr. O. Mwai)

Project duration: April 2010 to December 2012, total budget: 60 000 Euro
With increasing climate variability livestock keeper strategies to adapt to variations become of predominant importance. Since pastoral production systems are complex and characterized by a high temporal and spatial variability, local innovations are supposed to be better adapted to the prevailing conditions. Knowledge about local innovations in pastoral livestock management is however scarce. In recent years, farmer to farmer exchange has been identified as a promising approach to facilitate learning of farmers to improve their production and livelihood systems.
The purpose of the project is to enhance adaptation to climate variability through effective knowledge sharing processes in vulnerable ecosystems of the arid and semi arid lands (ASALs) of Kenya. This involves development and adaptation of methods that render mutual learning between livestock keepers and scientist more effective.

  • Methodology of livestock keepers to livestock keepers’ knowledge sharing, relevant to buffering against climate change in pastoral production systems adapted.
  • Effective tools for documentation, reflection and scientific use of the knowledge exchange process developed.
  • Decision making process of pastoralists about adoption of innovations analysed using cybernetic knowledge analysis.
  • Methods published and shared with stakeholders of Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and research institutions.

Methodology: The focus of the project lies on enhancing livestock keepers and scientists learning on buffering strategies to climate variability based on knowledge generated during farmer-interactive extension. Facilitation of information exchange tools will be borrowed from both Participatory Learning and Action Research and systemic management. Capturing and sharing the knowledge gained thus requires reflection after the exchange sessions. Reflection will therefore be introduced as a systematic component into the livestock keepers’ exchange methodology. Results of the reflection process will enable:

  1. livestock keepers to discuss and share the knowledge they gained in the exchange process, also for better understanding and internalization of adaptive strategies,
  2. scientists to generate data to get in-depth understanding of the perspective of the livestock keepers, including their rules that they base their actions on.

Preliminary results:
During five months field work in Marsabit District finally five local innovations were documented and pastoralist to pastoralist exchange meetings were organised to discuss their feasibility. One of them was the formation of pastoral marketing groups which finally led to the foundation of a biweekly market in Ilaut (see pictures).

Ilaut market: Livestock keeper groups jointly organised a biweekly livestock market in Ilaut

Fieldwork was conducted by:

William Nelson              Vince Canger                David Golicha               Raphael Gudere

William Nelson Idenfication of local innovations in Marsabit county
Vince Canger MSc Study: Pastoralists’ evaluation of local innovations: Analysis of pastoralist-to-pastoralist exchange sessions to determine adoption factors
David Golicha Pastoralist to pastoralist exchange sessions

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