The ILRI 2019 Annual Report> The right policies

ILRI/Riccardo Gangale
Cattle on the outskirts of Wajir, northern Kenya

ILRI’s research supports land-use planning in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid counties

A long-term collaboration between ILRI and the Kenya National Land Commission is informing guidelines on land-use planning to enhance livelihoods of pastoral communities

By Sarah Kasyoka

Pastoralism is the dominant livestock production system in most arid and semi-arid rangelands in Kenya, which encompass more than half of the country’s territory. Pastoralism has traditionally played a vital role in Kenya. According to one study, it produces more than a quarter of the meat Kenya consumes and annually contributes more than USD 1 billion to the economy.

However, a number of factors are putting these rangelands under growing strain, including population growth, climate change, conflicts over land use, an increasing number and intensity of droughts and poor land management.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has conducted decades of research on the use and governance of land and other resources in pastoralist settings in Kenya and other countries. This research has long contributed to the management and protection of rangelands; in Kenya, it is now being included in the National Land Commission’s spatial planning guidelines for county governments.

ILRI and the National Land Commission worked together to transform research insights into guidance materials on land use planning for counties.

As pastoralist systems continue to be eroded, these guidelines, known as County Spatial Plans, will become increasingly important. Movement between grazing areas, water points and markets is a crucial aspect of the production system in pastoral areas and for realizing the economic potential and optimal biodiversity management of rangelands.

Various factors, however, are increasingly limiting pastoralists’ mobility. Livestock migration routes that allow access to water and pasture areas, which are especially crucial in times of drought, are being lost to infrastructure development, expansion of towns and farming activities. Furthermore, factors such as unplanned provision of water points for animals and the mushrooming of settlements have led pastoralists to move away from traditional seasonal grazing patterns, which has in turn contributed to further land degradation as more and more pastures are grazed year-round.

A Samburu boy and girl with their herd of cattle in Isiolo County, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Kabir Dhanji)

A strategic approach to land-use planning at different levels can help ensure that pastoral resources are protected, and their use optimized for local and national economic gain. According to Lance Robinson, an ILRI scientist who has worked on land and resource governance: ‘There is enormous untapped potential to develop not only the livestock economy in the arid and semi-arid lands, but other sectors of the economy as well. Unlocking these possibilities will require strategic decision-making and a long-term vision to ensure that development protects and builds on extensive livestock keeping and enhances livelihoods for livestock keepers’.

This is where county spatial planning comes in. A County Spatial Plan is a long-term plan guiding the direction of development in a county. It is the foundation on which other parts of the county planning framework stand. Established by the County Governments Act of 2012, all counties in Kenya are required to produce them. Counties where pastoralism is prominent will need to take specific steps to reconcile land use competition and conflicts, facilitate mobility, protect key resources, strategically guide investment opportunities towards livestock production and marketing, and improve rangeland management.

Counties where pastoralism is prominent will need to take specific steps to reconcile land use competition and conflicts, facilitate mobility, protect key resources, and improve rangeland management.

ILRI’s researchers have identified various challenges for the management and protection of rangelands and extensive livestock production. Based on this work, ILRI worked closely with the Kenya National Land Commission to develop an annex to the Commission’s Guidelines for County Spatial Planning and three accompanying toolkits for use by staff of county governments. These were launched by the Commission in 2019. The guidelines, toolkits and annex will guide county governments in Kenya to ensure proper land-use planning in order to strengthen community land rights and support pastoralist communities in the management of their rangelands. This will foster sustainable livestock production, thus improving food security and livelihoods in the counties.

The process of developing these guidelines entailed the sharing of insights from ILRI’s research in various forums with key stakeholders from government—particularly personnel from the Kenya National Land Commission and county governments—and from civil society. ILRI and the National Land Commission then worked together to transform these research insights into guidance materials on land use planning for counties. Together they decided that they would develop an annex to the Commission’s guidelines on county spatial planning aimed specifically at issues relevant to pastoralists and rangelands, and a series of practical toolkits for county government staff and other interested stakeholders.

ILRI took the lead in laying out the structure for the annex and toolkits. Between 2017 and 2019, a series of ‘write shops’ with personnel from the National Land Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Kenya, the NGO RECONCILE, and ILRI helped refine the documents. Representatives from these organizations also worked on parts of the annex and toolkits with the National Land Commission, before eventually taking on full leadership of the process.

The materials were finalized and officially launched at a ceremony attended by stakeholders from across Kenya in August 2019. That event publicized the materials to county governments and other stakeholders to ensure that they are put to use in the counties’ spatial planning processes. This annex and the toolkits, together with other interventions by ILRI and the Commission, have placed county governments in a strong position to undertake land use planning in a way that supports pastoralist communities in the management of their rangelands. These tools will enhance the governance and use of land and other resources, thus improving livelihoods and environmental management.

Better lives through Livestock

How the other half works:
Making a living with livestock

International Livestock Research Institute2019 Annual Report

Photo credit: ILRI/Georgina Smith
Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general (l) with ILRI board chair Lindsay Falvey(photo credits: ILRI/Alexandra de Athayde and ILRI/Susan MacMillan)


We are publishing the 2019 annual report of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) during a global pandemic whose impacts on human health and the global economy have already proven catastrophic. Both COVID-19 and recent events around the world have shown that inequalities of various kinds—social, racial and economic, among others—remain powerful forces that need to be addressed. At ILRI, we are committed to ensuring that our research on livestock contributes in a multitude of ways to addressing the current crisis, from preventing future pandemics to helping those most impacted by the present one. We are working on livestock solutions that help re-ignite economies, support health and nutrition, and build up sustainable and resilient food systems in the poorer parts of the world.

This report’s focus on gender is especially timely. Few societies in the world are free from inequalities arising from gender, as few are free from inequalities of race, status and multiple other kinds of division.

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A gendered lens: Women, men and the future of livestock

Picture a livestock keeper in the developing world. In all likelihood, you are visualizing a man, perhaps herding cows and goats across a savanna or ploughing a piece of farmland with bullocks. The very term ‘animal husbandry’—which refers to the care, cultivation and breeding of animals—denotes masculine qualities, deriving as it does from late Old English (‘male head of a household’). But of course, it is not only men who keep livestock.

In fact, some two-thirds of the developing world’s hundreds of millions of poor livestock keepers are women, not men. In these countries, women, not men, perform most of the work in farm and herding households that goes into caring for animals. It is these women, not their menfolk, who do most of the day-to-day farm animal management as well as the processing, marketing and selling of the milk and eggs their animals produce. And it is developing-country women, not men, who typically make daily household decisions regarding a family’s chickens and other small stock.

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Nicoline de Haan, ILRI gender team leader(photo credit: CGIAR CRP on Water, Land and Ecosystems)

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The animals they keep

Feature stories highlighting ILRI's gender work

ILRI is a research-for-development institute, dedicated to a world free of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. Its projects and initiatives reach beyond the library or the laboratory to the real world. The four stories that follow depict with journalistic flair and photographic detail the opportunities and challenges facing women and men building a better future for themselves through livestock.

The CGIAR gender platform

A renewed platform on gender aims to give greater voice to women farmers in the developing world Hosted by ILRI, the multi-centre collaborative effort will focus on gender equality and transformative food systems

Women farmers in the developing world face a host of challenges, from balancing domestic and agricultural chores to securing access to land and markets. To help women achieve gender equality in food systems, and to sustainably defeat hunger and enhance nutrition, CGIAR has launched a CGIAR GENDER Platform. The platform aims to create a ‘new normal’-a world in which greater gender equality drives more equitable, sustainable, productive and climate-resilient food systems.
ILRI is proud to serve as host for a new CGIAR-wide platform on gender issues in global agricultural research for development. Known as GENDER (Generating Evidence and New Directions for Equitable Results), the platform aims to help transform the way gender research is done, both within and beyond CGIAR, and to help kick-start a process of genuine change towards greater gender equality and better lives for smallholder farmers everywhere.

Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, stated, 'GENDER is well positioned to produce far-reaching and enduring impacts because it will aim to give a voice to the millions of women who today are mostly excluded from the extremely urgent efforts to produce enough, and good enough, food under the climate crisis. Only when both women and men are empowered to transform food systems can they successfully nourish families, communities and entire nations, today and in the future.'
Launched in January 2020, GENDER builds on a wealth of research and learning generated by the previous CGIAR Gender Network and the Collaborative Platform for Gender Research (2011–2019). It includes all 14 CGIAR research centres, 12 collaborative CGIAR research programs and 3 other CGIAR system-wide research support platforms and will forge alliances with change-makers in government, academia, national agricultural research extension systems and non-governmental organizations.

ILRI's gender team

It begins in the lab

But extends to the field

Fighting animal disease, planting better forages, preventing the dangerous spread of antimicrobial-resistant infections and improving food safety all require meticulous scientific work. ILRI’s biosciences division provides researchers with the time and resources to carry out that painstaking research. These stories show how ILRI is working to find solutions that will progressively reduce poverty and improve human health.

Building for the future

Making tomorrow’s breakthroughs possible

Tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs can only happen if we invest in people and institutions today. ILRI maintains a variety of programs to enhance mission effectiveness and stimulate global research on livestock in the developing world. Its internship program has hosted scores of undergraduate interns from the world over—the next generation of livestock scientists. Its Ethiopia campus provides a model of how CGIAR centres can work synergistically. And its pioneering genotyping platform is helping scientists throughout Africa to modernize and strengthen breeding programs.

The right policies

The science of livestock systems

Because they are embedded in structures that extend from the family home to global trade, the economics, policies and social science of livestock systems remain ILRI's focus. ILRI’s scientists are helping the Kenyan government develop land-use policies to ensure a viable future for the country’s millions of pastoralists. They are identifying sustainable, bottom-up, stakeholder-led interventions in livestock value chains. And they are ensuring that farmers in Africa participate in climate-smart solutions that maximize productivity while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

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Top 2019 science journal articlesfrom ILRI programs