Women in Isiolo county are taking up the male-dominated business of livestock keeping. One of the groups, Horrijabesa Self-Help Group, buys emaciated animals from other livestock keepers for less than Sh40,000.

Fatuma Wario, the chairperson, says the animals are fattened for two to three months. Then they are sold at Sh43-45,000 to the local market every Friday.

“We lease land and keep the animals to fatten. We deworm and vaccinate the animals and ensure they have enough pasture to feed for two to three months before we sell them,” she says.

Fatuma says they make a profit of Sh2-3,000 from one animal, and the profit is shared among members. In a good month, they make Sh50-70,000 from the sale of animals.

The group was registered in 2004. The 16 members have been trained on savings, record keeping, developing business plans and starting other businesses. This is thanks to the Programme for Rural Outreach of Financial Innovation and Technologies (PROFIT) supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and IFAD.

“We share the profits among ourselves, and members can also access loans to meet their needs, such as paying schools fees or hospital bills,” Fatuma says.

“I got an emergency loan of Sh50,000 to take my husband to India for treatment. This is something I could not have afforded on my own.”

She was speaking to the media during a field visit to Isiolo last Friday but one.

In 2014, her husband was diagnosed with a heart problem, and he needed nearly Sh1 million to have an operation in India.

The members save Sh20 every Sunday, enabling them to support their children instead of relying on their husbands. Fatuma has bought about 10 sheep from her savings.


Group member Mohammed Wario says the name Horrijabesa was derived form the Borana language. Horri means wealth in Boranna and jabesa means safeguarding wealth.

Wario is among three men who were incorporated into the group to help take care of the animals in case they travel far in search of pasture.

His work is mainly on technology. He takes pictures of the animals and sends them to clients on WhatsApp or developing business plans for the group.

He counts among their problems climate change and insecurity. Five of their animals were stolen in February.

“We reported to the authorities but no action has been taken,” Wario says.

“Due to drought, we are forced to take our animals far to look for pasture. Last year, we had about 28 animals and only nine remained. We sold the animals to the Kenya Meat Commission at Sh15,000 each, but we are yet to be paid.

Early this year, the group improved its savings in the bank from Sh26,000 to Sh160,000.

“We have taught them power of saving. We have taught them saving from as low as Sh10 to Sh100 per day can improve your life tremendously,” Wario says.

The women have also started other income-generating ventures, such as growing kitchen gardens, where they sell vegetables to members and residents at a small fee.


Women from Galesa Self-Help Group are making a killing from the sale of camel milk. Sadia Mohammed, the secretary, says the group has 25 camels from different villages and wards in Isiolo.

Prior to the group’s formation, members used to buy and sell camel milk in Isiolo town.

“Most of the milk would get spoiled and the group members would make losses, sometimes earning little income, which was used for household expenses. The group was recruited in a VSF (veterinarian sans frontier Swiss) programme in 2014 and given 25 young camels,” she says.

The group’s leadership was dominated by men, and women could not make any significant contribution.

“The male officials later embezzled their contributions and left, and the group fell apart. The women were frustrated and almost gave up. SNV team showed up in June 2017 at a crucial time, when the group was focused on rejuvenating and reorganising itself strategically to move forward after a major downfall,” he says.

Chala Said, a member of Galesa Women’s Group, says when she attended PROFIT training, she was buying and selling milk, but most of it was getting spoiled and she was not earning much. But after the training, she decided to save and do something profitable.

“I bought a sheep at Sh1,500 with my savings, and within a short time, the flock started expanding. In September, my son was sent home due to lack of school fees, and my husband did not have any money. He was so worried because this was the last term and the students are expecting their exams soon,” Chala says.

“I knew I could provide a solution. I took one sheep and one lamb to the market, negotiated for a good price, and sold both for Sh5,800. Then I sent my son back to school. Since then, my husband is so proud of me.”

The group sells milk to a camel milk cooperative in Isiolo at Sh100, and currently they are producing 10 litres of milk per day.

“We also buy milk from other camel keepers at Sh70 per litre. From the proceeds, we pay the person that takes care of the camels then we share the rest,” Sadia says.

They would want to have a facility with a refrigerator and milk cooler to store their milk.

“We want to one day package the camel milk and sell to supermarkets in Isiolo and even Nairobi. This will keep off traders who buy the camel milk at Sh100 and sell in Nairobi at Sh150-Sh180,” she says.


Group member Fatuma Guyo says the 10-litre plastic containers they sell milk with is becoming problematic as it cannot store milk for long.

“Even health officers are against the plastic containers. If we had the resources, we would buy copper coated milk containers, which are more hygienic and can store milk for longer,” Guyo says.

David Kosgei, a capacity development adviser from Netherlands NGO SNV, says the group started as an initiative of poor and vulnerable women. It had a membership of 25 members, with seven men and 18 women.

SNV is based in Meru and Isiolo counties and was consulted by Agra in 2017.

Kosgei says they provided capacity building on agribusiness module, budgeting, saving and governance for the members.

“We also trained them on financial linkage as a result of bringing in various stakeholders in finance, suppliers and also markets. We are working closely with the county government, which is supporting the livestock keepers in pasture management,” he says.

Kosgei says they have linked the group with a financial bank that is Sharia-compliant and friendly to the women, many of whom are from the Muslim community.

“The power of saving is very important. They have been able to increase savings and start other small business,” he says.

Infographic data

Camel is a more reliable milk provider than other classes of livestock as provides milk when other livestock are not in milk and there lactation period is long.

The milk contributes about a half of the nutrients intake of most gabras and Rendilles. Camel milk is a major economy for communities in North Eastern region and over 3,000 litres of camel milk in Nairobi at a cost of Sh150 per litre.

Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti has 84 percent of the world camel population which stands at 17 million. In 2009 census Kenya had 2,971,11.

Isiolo County has a population of over 45,000 camels and Marsabit County has over 200,000 camels.

Camels in Kenya are mainly kept for milk, meat and transport. Other uses which are untapped are eco- tourism, draught power and value addition of its products.

Judith Chemuliti, the director of the Kenya’s Biotechnology Research Institute (BioRI) said the triquin drug currently being used to treat camels has been in the market for over 20 years and has developed resistance.

Triquin’s ineffectiveness is blamed for the spread of surra, a camel trypanosomiasis disease that is a constraint to camel production for communities in northeastern.

The African Union has funded a three-year study project that will support the development of a new drug at a cost of Sh70 million in North Eastern Kenya and North Western Somalia.