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Isiolo pastoralists trade livestock for fresh produce

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Isiolo County government and United States Agency for International Development Kenya (USAID) through its Livestock Market Systems Activity have established a fresh produce market in Isiolo town.

In efforts to strengthen the horticulture value chain in the predominant pastoral community, USAID will give grants to fresh produce traders in the county to procure vegetables from different parts of the country.

The traders will then distribute vegetable to adjacent semi arid counties.

Isiolo County Chief Officer for Trade, Industrialization, and Investment Lucy Kaburu said the introduction was meant to change the business scope in a region whose economic backbone is livestock rearing .

”This has brought a unique way of working because when locals, who are mainly livestock keepers sell their animals, they can buy other food products in the same markets,” she said.

She adds that the food and produce market activity will run alongside the already stabilized USAID’s Kenya Livestock Market System activity(LMS).

USAID LMS activity is backed to build resilience to shocks such as drought and floods that affect northern counties of Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit,Samburu, Turkana, and Wajir.

Last year, the seven-year activity (2017-2024) focused on assisting people in northern Kenya deal with the harsh effects of five consecutive failed rainy seasons, the COVID-19 pandemic, food shortages due to the Russia-Ukraine war, and market disruptions that resulted from the general election.

”This has brought a unique way of working because when locals, who are mainly livestock keepers sell their animals, they can buy other food products in the same markets,” says Kaburu.

Kaburu said fresh produce traders formed groups through which they aggregate and source products from as far as Kitale in the western region of the country as Isiolo County produces limited food crop.

“They get the produce in bulk which is then distributed to the last-mile vendor in the vast county with some sub-locations being between 300 to 400 kilometers from Isiolo town,” she added.

USAID LMS has supported close to 1,000 traders who were completely out of business due to the constant shocks and stresses.

USAID LMS Chief of Party Joe Sanders said the program is supporting over 561,000 people in Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Samburu, Turkana, and Wajir counties to withstand adversities, reduce poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.

He said out of a target of 5,755 small-scale food and livestock traders, 4,195 (2,999 women and 1,196 men) have been supported through cash transfers to boost food availability and trade.

“The cash transfers provided stability to traders. Even with the current heavy rains, we have equipped them to continue running their businesses,” said Sanders.

Through the program, food transporters received cash transfers to enable them to reach markets in remote areas amid the heavy rains. Additionally, USAID LMS has distributed water tanks for residents to collect and store rainwater for future use.

Benson Rioba
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