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Livestock for Health in Kenya

Contributing to the prevention of acute malnutrition among children in pastoral households through nutrition-sensitive livestock programming in Marsabit County

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Washington State University and other stakeholders, undertook a research-oriented project, Livestock for Health (L4H), to address the availability issues of essential animal-sourced foods in pastoralist households in the regions of the Marsabit County, northern Kenya. The project aimed to determine the impact of  Livestock-based interventions, such as promoting mobility and improving forage, with or without nutritional counselling, on reducing the risk of seasonal spikes in acute malnutrition among children under five years of age and pregnant and lactating women in dry seasons. This good practice factsheet provides an overview of the project, including its methodological approach, implementation stages, impact and key learning. 


On results: Designed as a cluster randomized control trial, the research project provided livestock feed to households resulting in consistently higher milk production at the household level during both dry and non-dry seasons. Households receiving livestock feed experienced an average increase of 0.2 liters of milk per day, representing a 25 percent boost in milk production. The surplus in milk supply led to an increase in beneficiaries selling milk, causing a reduction in the local market milk price from Kenyan shilling (KES) 30–60 (USD 0.24–0.48) per liter to KES 15–20 (USD 0.12–0.16) per liter. Children's daily milk consumption in targeted households had an increase between 58 percent  and 70 percent (depending on the project's intervention). Additionally, a 23 percent increase in daily milk consumption was recorded for mothers in households receiving livestock feed. 

On impacts on child nutrition and gender: The feed only intervention reduced child wasting by 11 percent and stunting by 8 percent, while the feed and nutrition counselling intervention reduced child wasting by 26 percent. Furthermore, providing livestock feed to households minimized the time spent on grazing livestock (10 minutes per day) and fetching grass for animals at the homestead (103 minutes). Consequently, women had more time available per day, which they spent on household chores, leading to increased time spent on cooking (15 minutes); milking (1.9 minutes); childcare, breastfeeding, and feeding children (16 minutes); and sleeping/resting (18 minutes). 

On nutrition: Nutrition-sensitive food system interventions, when implemented with a research focus, play a crucial role in generating scientific evidence for their contribution to preventing malnutrition.Enhanced livestock production, especially when coupled with nutrition counselling, significantly contributes to malnutrition prevention in women and children. Complementing these interventions with multisectoral initiatives, presents opportunities to enhance nutrition outcomesand provide additional livelihood options such as social safety net programmes, crop production activities, improved water and sanitation infrastructure, and access to well-equipped health centers for pregnant and lactating women. 

On replicability and upscale: This livestock feed intervention has shown the need to ensure local availability of livestock range cubes (livestock feed) in the local markets, especially during the dry seasons, as the pastoralists were willing to adopt this model during dry seasons. It has also shown that complementing the intervention with technical assistance to communities in crop production through kitchen gardens would enable them to access fruits, vegetables and legumes for household consumption, thereby diversifying their diets and reducing overreliance on livestock and markets for purchase of other foods. Within Kenya, the L4H model can be used in other pastoral regions, especially when early warning systems indicate the need for intervention. 


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