Life and times of two pastoralists in the city, where meat always sells like hotcake
Ibrahim Abdi’s flock of sheep and goats manoeuvre their way up down the concrete hills at Patel Concrete in Donholm, Nairobi, expertly picking and nipping at the lone plants that have sprouted randomly in the vast site for construction materials.
But Abdi’s animals are used to life in the city, where they live and thrive amid the concrete jungle and tarmacked roads, as they are driven to various undeveloped land within the estate before retreating to Njenga slum where they are housed.
Goat and sheep meat is in high demand especially in the urban areas like Nairobi. “Most orders for our goats are made by hotels and clubs where patrons go to unwind with beer and nyama choma,” Abdi says.
He explains that when a buyer approaches them, a price is negotiated depending on the size of the animal and the money exchanged in the fields. A sizeable goat or sheep normally costs between Sh3,500 and Sh4,500, but rises with demand.
From the proceeds, the two brothers have been able to pay school fees for their children, pay bills while still meet the cost of rearing the animals.
So what does it take to rear a flock in the city? “Keeping goats and sheep is not new to me and my brother, but raising them in the city was quite a challenge in the beginning,” Abdi admits.
The two started the venture five years ago. The duo take turns to herd, as one visits the market to collect vegetable remains to feed the younger ones of the flock.
The task is not easy. “Herding can take a whole day depending on the availability of food, but whether it is raining or the sun is shinning, the weather is always harsh,” Abdi says.
“Several times when this happens, some motorists just speed off leaving us with the loss. Some, however, are kind enough to pay when they hit a goat or sheep.”
Abdi laughs remembering a motorist who wanted to be paid instead, because he believed that livestock should not be in the city in the first place.
The shack where they keep their animals hardly protects them from break-ins. This also happens when a goat or sheep strays and it is taken by thieves and sold to unsuspecting buyers.
A greater challenge perhaps is the issue of grazing land. For Abdi and Aden, theirs is a case of pure grace and the goodwill on the part of those who allow them to graze their animals on their land.
Apart from the Patel Concrete site, the two have made agreements with two other developers within Donholm estate, often with the condition that the flock does not destroy property nor interfere with operations. In return, they provide ‘watch’ over the property.
Urban livestock rearing is controlled by the county government. According to Nicholas Rono, an agricultural expert, herding livestock along the highway endangers not only the animals but also motorists’ lives. “It is in this breadth that the county has designated special areas such as along Kangundo Road and the Nairobi Animal Park for urban farmers to graze their livestock,” he says.