A Day at the NRT Trading Livestock Market
It is ten in the morning in Jaldesa Community Conservancy, Marsabit County. The heat has already swollen in the air, which is filled with the sound of chatter and cattle brays. A large group of men and women have gathered together. Around them, cattle huddle together in clusters; some calmly chew the cud, others, young bulls, wrestle and jostle each other sending clouds of red dust into the air.
It is market day for the NRT Trading LivestockWORKS business, which aims to link sustainable grassland management to rewarding livestock markets for pastoralists in community conservancies.
Tume Tache Halake, a mother of six and a Jaldesa Community Conservancy member, arrived here before sunrise with two bulls. “I heard that there is a market today through word of mouth,” she says, “and I thought it would be best to come and see what is happening, and if possible sell some of my livestock.”
For Tume and her community, livestock dictate the way and pace of life. Her cattle are the primary source of income for her family, and her children’s prosperity is inextricably linked to good grass, reliable rainfall and fair market prices. All of which have become a rarity for Tume lately.
As the northern rangelands of Kenya come under increasing pressure to support growing livestock numbers, conservancies like Jaldesa are trying to find solutions with the support of NRT and NRT Trading.
LivestockWORKS, a business of NRT Trading, holds cattle markets in conservancies that have demonstrated efforts to rehabilitate rangelands and implement grass management. Where cattle owners like Tume usually trek cattle for days to the nearest market to be paid a sight-based price, LivestockWORKS buys cattle directly from pastoralists on their doorstep, and pays per kilo to ensure fair prices.
Tume joins the crowd under the tree, where NRT Trading’s Livestock Director Patrick Ekodere addresses the livestock owners. “Wazee na wenyekijiji cha Jaldesa - Elders and residents of Jaldesa – welcome to market day,” he says. Most of the crowd has met Patrick before — a purchase day is the final stage in a multi-day build up of meetings and consultations with elders and pastoralists to raise awareness of how and why the market works.
He goes on to stress that sick cattle will not be purchased, and ensures that all of the cattle at the market belong to Jaldesa community members. He reminds sellers that they will be required to remit a Ksh. 1,000 conservancy fee to Jaldesa as a contribution to conservation and livelihoods activities. NRT Trading matches this with Ksh. 2,000 for each cow. He then explains the price system, which is divided into three categories based on weight, and correlate to the animal’s potential for growth:
1 – Ksh. 115 per kilo… cattle between 250-279 kg fetch between Ksh. 28,750 and 32, 085
2 – Ksh. 125 per kilo…. cattle between 280-299 kg fetch between Ksh. 36 600 and 35,880
3 – Price paid for cattle over 300 kg is paid for at Ksh. 125 per kilo.
“Where does the one thousand conservancy fee I contribute and the two thousand NRT Trading contributes go to?” asks one seller.
“This conservancy fee goes back to the community,” replies Patrick. “It is the money that supports your children when conservancies pay for bursaries, it is also used in rangeland management like grass reseeding, land rehabilitation and rotational grazing projects,” he explains.
According to Patrick, this fee is as much about driving community ownership of conservancy projects and building a sustainable business mindset amongst pastoralists, as it is about the physical financial contribution.
“Can we have an opportunity to check the weighing machine?” asks another seller. “Yes,” replies Patrick. “In fact, I am seeking a volunteer from amongst yourselves to bring a certified kilo of sugar or rice from your local weighing scales to validate.”
Someone runs to the local shop to fetch a weight used for measuring maize. “Secondly, I invite one of you or a number of you who know their weight to weigh themselves.”
This was an opportunity too good for many to pass, and soon a queue snakes from the weighing scales and hoots of laughter emanate from the huddle gathered around it. Patrick calls for proper business to begin after the 15th person jumps down from the machine.
His first job is to separate any blind, lame and sick cattle from the market herd. Owners of these animals are told they cannot sell cattle in this state, and are given advice on treatment.
35-year-old Galgalo Duba is first to sell his bull. After hearing about the LivestockWORKS model, he held out for this market, preferring to sell to NRT Trading than at the traditional markets.
His bull charges forward in to the weighing scale, Galgalo fixes his eyes on the weight register. His bull weighs an impressive 483 kg, and at 125 per kilo this earns him Ksh. 60,375.
An ecstatic Galgalo is asked whether he is willing to sell his bull. “Yes!” He replies, “the price is higher than I was offered elsewhere, I wish I would have come with other bulls!”
Next up is Tume. Her early start and long journey was worth it, as she sells her two bulls, weighing 363 and 364 kgs, for Ksh. 90, 875.
“I am so happy to have sold my cattle to NRT-Trading,” she says after the sale. “The market is very good in comparison to what we normally have, because it gives me the opportunity to understand the price of my cattle as opposed to the ordinary markets where brokers decide and connive for certain prices. I would have sold both my cows at Ksh. 70,000, but now I have a very good profit.”
A total of 367 cattle are bought at the Jaldesa market by NRT Trading, concluding the latest in a series of markets this year (14 in total) that have collectively injected Ksh. 94 million into the pastoralist economy. The community conservancies have benefited from a further Ksh. 7 million in conservation fees from these markets.
“With each market, pastoralists make tangible links between their conservancies, good rangeland management, and positive impacts on their lives and those of their children,” says Patrick. “Ultimately, this is building support for community conservation amongst those with the greatest potential to make long lasting change.”