Mapping out zoonotic risks in the ruminants’ value chain and their implication to pastoral livelihoods in Kajiado County, Kenya

Image showing FGD meat transporters

Ruminants are a major component of the livestock industry in Kenya. Diminishing pastureland, body sizes and shorter generation intervals make small ruminants a very popular livestock option for smallholder farmers in pastoral systems in Kenya. As two-thirds of infectious pathogens are zoonotic, the large number of domesticated animals in Kenya means there is a greater potential for zoonotic disease transmission within the food chain. This study aims to map out zoonotic risks in the ruminants’ value chain, and their implication to pastoral livelihoods in Kajiado County, Kenya.

The study area had a particularly high wildlife-livestock-human interface; ideal for transmission of zoonoses. The study involved a qualitative baseline field survey. The study used a cross-sectional design, in which the primary sampling unit were slaughterhouses and slabs, within which all eligible and consenting value chain pastoralists were interviewed. Focus group discussions (FGDs), semi-structured interviews and key informant interviews were used to crosscheck the information.

A number of constraints to livestock production, including diseases, were encountered in the study area. Because they treat their animals by themselves, there was a likelihood of misuse of drugs leading to antibacterial resistance. The kind of diseases mentioned that animals may contract due to their livelihoods were: anthrax, brucellosis, Rift Valley Fever, tuberculosis, tapeworms and rabies, in that order. Foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease were mentioned across the FGDs using the animal products; the pastoralists came down with similar flu symptoms.

From the pastoralists’ point of view the inputs in the value chains were self-medication of their animals leading a possible misuse of drugs without proper withdrawal periods; they were able to identify the zoonotic risks they are faced with. Zoonoses are an important health risk in Kenya and they impact human health and well-being as well as animal health. A better understanding of infection processes at the point of slaughter is needed to minimise disease transmission, and it is this which this study aimed to improve.

The outputs of this study will provide evidence for policymakers in Kajiado and other counties with an interest in improving production policies within the ruminant production sector.