Upgraded Market Becomes Hub of Activity in Kenya’s Arid Lands
Samuel Lekorima, an LMA member
In the past, markets in Isiolo and Marsabit Counties were simple affairs: an open space with wooden railings marking the sale yard, along with an entrance and a loading ramp where sellers and buyers did their business. To promote broader economic resilience and help communities in Kenya’s arid lands endure the effects of climate change, the USAID Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands – Accelerated Growth (REGAL-AG) project worked with local government partners and USAID’s Partnership for Resilience and Economic Growth (PREG) to build and upgrade livestock markets.
Today, the renovated Merille market, which is close to a main road, is an economic hub for livestock producers, traders, service providers, and nearly 5,000 households in the area. Renovations supported by REGAL-AG and partners include the addition of a large retail selling area, a sale yard, animal pens, an animal health center, administrative offices, a cooking area, a hay store, and toilets, all surrounded by a fence. Infrastructure improvements have led to increased sales and economic opportunities for local actors, creating a hub of activity and a host of new jobs.
Broker-Translator as Business Enabler
When buyers and sellers speak different languages, communication can be a barrier to good business. Joseph Lenakasa provides translation services to buyers and sellers during transactions and collects a fee for brokering deals.
“This market has totally transformed my family’s life,” Joseph said with enthusiasm. “Before it was constructed, I used to struggle to make ends meet, and had to sell a goat or sheep from my stock whenever I needed money. But now, I make [enough] on a weekly basis on market days.”
Vendor Profits from Hungry Clientele
Halima Ngolei sells food in Merille market in addition to owning a shop in the town’s center. With more people flocking to the market, Halima can earn as much working a few hours in the market as she can working five days in her store.
“This market has brought a lot of life-changing experiences to the people of Merille because they now touch and feel money in their hands,” Halima said. “Personally, I have benefited from the market and have managed to take two of my children to school, and bought furniture and equipment for my house.”
More Sales, More Income for Transporter
The more transactions taking place in Merille market, the more David Mwena, a transporter from a nearby county, earns. As market activity increases, David now transports 100–200 goats per week, making enough money to support his family.
“I like this market because it is well structured, and this makes the movement and loading of animals on to the trucks very fast,” David said. “The good condition of the main road also attracts many traders to the market because the journey is swift, and this means that the rate of animal losses during transportation has been minimized.”
Empowered Youth Become Market Managers
To promote local ownership and governance, the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) manages Merille market, collecting a small fee from every transaction. Samuel Lekorima, an LMA member, oversees day-to-day management and receives a salary.
“I completed secondary education in 2012 and became a LMA member in 2016 after being vetted and appointed by community members, who wanted the market to be under the supervision of people who can read and write,” Samuel proudly noted.
Since August 2012, the USAID REGAL-AG project has constructed or renovated 12 markets and provided grants to 37 entrepreneurs to support livestock-related businesses in Isiolo and Marsabit Counties.