A case for a national livestock census in Kenya
The last Kenya livestock census was conducted in 1988 and whatever figures that have been subsequently used for planning and other purposes were projections. The livestock population figures as released by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics from the 2009 Population Census are therefore welcome
The reasons enumerated here are not exhaustive and those left out are not in any way less significant. They are just to show that the livestock population figures should be interpreted with caution. Nevertheless, the KBS livestock figures are a step forward in improving livestock production in Kenya.
as they present official figures that can be referred to. But wait! How accurate are they? There has been concern regarding the accuracy of these figures.
Livestock population: Kenya Population Census 2009
Before delving into the accuracy, one has to accept that these figures are official. The only way to corroborate or challenge these figures is for the Ministry of Livestock Development to carry out a livestock census given that these figures inform policy. Twenty two years is a long time and projections can no longer be relied upon. A national livestock census is long overdue.
Various grounds have been advanced to challenge the accuracy of the livestock population figures. The arguments are varied, some of which are valid though not verified. Among the grounds for dispute are:
- Culturally, many communities in Kenya are not inclined to disclose the number of animals they posses for fear of losing them. The census clerks did not therefore carry out head counts to validate obtained figures.
- All livestock age groups were not taken into consideration. For example, in obtaining the number of chicken, it was common to give the number of adult and leaving out the chicks. The same applied to other livestock categories.
- Not all livestock categories were considered. Just the common farm animals like cattle, sheep and goats were counted. Other not so common but equally important livestock, for example pigs, horses, other poultry, emerging livestock, ostrich, rabbits and others were left out.
- Various aspects to do with economics of livestock production were overlooked. The infrastructure and livestock support systems need to be taken into account.