According to scientists working with the ‘Small ruminants’ project of ILRI, improved breeding of small ruminants provides a better pathway for enhancing resilience of poor pastoral and farming households against climate change. Also, small ruminants can enhance incomes of women and youth as they tend to have control over them. Using participatory community approaches, the project aims to increase production of milk and meat of small ruminant thereby increasing households’ incomes. Piloting of the project started in 2014 in the Nyando climate-smart villages (CSVs) in Western Kenya where collective action in seven villages is helping smallholders integrate science approaches to address the effects of climate change.
In realization that breeding of small ruminants in East African has been between indigenous breeds in the region that take long to mature and fetch poor market prices, the new project will be providing beneficiaries with crossbreeds as an alternative. The crossbreeds are able to withstand heat stress and recover from drought, utilize poor forage and cope with diseases, in addition to attaining mature market weights within shorter periods of time.
This project is an ‘upscale’ from a 2011 ILRI initiative that successfully introduced improved red Maasai sheep, bred at ILRI’s Kapiti Ranch, in eastern Kenya, among pastoralists in Kajiado District, which experiences droughts and extreme weather events similar to Nyando. The project resulted in increased adoption of sheep rearing among households in Isinya, Kajiado, and a new market for sheep milk in the district.