Slaughterhouse five

Guest blogger Hannah Reid reports back from a CBA9 field trip where she discovered how a slaughterhouse can help fight climate change.

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Insight by 
Hannah Reid
29 April 2015
The Maasai believe that community-managed slaughterhouses can help fight climate change. Here, effluent is stored in ponds (Photo: Hannah Reid/IIED)

The Maasai believe that community-managed slaughterhouses can help fight climate change. Here, effluent is stored in ponds (Photo: Hannah Reid/IIED)

I have just come back from a visit to a slaughterhouse, organised as part of the 9th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA9)

The visit was a one-day field trip to the community-managed Maasai Keekonyokie slaughterhouse in the town of Kiserian in Kajiado County, which locals argue is "a powerful and effective tool to fight climate change and save the future of African pastoralists". The visit was inspirational – but it also provoked a number of bigger questions that I hope will be answered as the conference continues. 

Drought is a major problem in Kenya, and climate change is making the droughts more regular and more intense. 2015 is no exception. Many pastoralists have moved from a state in which they are able to cope most of the time, to one in which destitution and vulnerability to famine are a constant danger.

Historically, a drought meant that a pastoralist could lose his herd and hence his livelihood. At best he may have been able to sell his emaciated stock to an opportunistic businessman, but not for a very good price. 

Buyers from the slaughterhouse peruse the emaciated stock bought to the market (Photo: Hannah Reid/IIED)

The Keekonyokie slaughterhouse provides desperate Maasai pastoralists with an alternative. If they can get their stock there, the slaughterhouse will give them a fair price for their animals. 

A goat can be bought for 6500 Kenyan Shillings (about £43) (Photo: Hannah Reid/IIED)Maasai from as far away as Tanzania bring their animals to the slaughterhouse. There is always a ready market for meat in Nairobi, so a sale is almost guaranteed. Profits from slaughterhouse operations at the end of the year are shared amongst its Maasai community owners. 

A number of people benefit from the slaughterhouse. Maasai pastoralists receive advice on rangeland management at the slaughterhouse that helps them avoid degradation and some of the challenges of communal property management in the rangelands, so improving their livelihood prospects. 

Carcasses in the Keekonyokie slaughterhouse (Photo: Hannah Reid/IIED)

Waste from the slaughterhouse is used to create manure and nitrogenous slurry, which is dried and used as a fertiliser to coat grass seeds. This helps regenerate the Maasai rangelands, supports livelihoods and also captures carbon. 

Slurry from the slaughterhouse effluent is stored in ponds (Photo: Hannah Reid/IIED)

Biogas production from the digesters captures carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming. In the early days, the biogas was stored in car tyres, but as technology has developed, gas cylinders are now used. The slaughterhouse can fill 100 of these cylinders a day. This provides communities with an alternative fuel to the trees they have been chopping down, which in turn protects the environment.

Biogas from the slaughterhouse is purified, bottled and sold (Photo: Hannah Reid/IIED)

Lingering questions

I left my visit feeling inspired and yet with five lingering questions which I hope will be answered by the rest of the conference:

  1. How do we measure the benefits of such community-based approaches? Measuring both the adaptation benefits and the carbon captured from such projects would provide some solid data to make it possible to compare options for tackling climate change. Given the urgency with which we need to respond to climate change, we need to know where to focus efforts. The theme of CBA9 is 'measuring and enhancing effective adaptation' and all sessions will be addressing this very issue
  2. With the vast sums now considered necessary to tackle adaptation at a global level, and the mismatch between this figure and the finances available through multilateral and bilateral aid, many are now looking to the private sector.

    In the opening session at CBA9, Simon Carter of the International Development Research Centre explained that the private sector is "where the big bucks are". But apart from a few isolated microfinance and microinsurance initiatives, it remains unclear to me how the private sector can contribute to adaptation efforts, and in particular meet the needs of the most vulnerable. It is hard, after all, to make money from people who have little

    Guide Michael Kibui sees the slaughterhouse as "the agent of change to regenerate the Maasai grasslands" (Photo: Hannah Reid/IIED)Support for the slaughterhouse comes from the Climate Innovation Centre (CIC) in Kenya, which has helped with the biogas cylinderisation process. This is one of the first convincing models I've seen on how support for small businesses can have strong adaptation outcomes. I'm interested to know how such approaches can be replicated elsewhere. Perhaps the private sector session at CBA9 will provide some answers
  3. Small-scale projects such as the slaughterhouse are inspiring. But given the scale of the challenges climate change brings, I'm interested to know how such approaches can be scaled up. Previous CBA conferences have addressed this issue (see CBA7 on mainstreaming into national and local planning, and a resulting special issue of the journal Climate and Development for example). Session two in CBA9 looking at 'Measuring, linking and learning about adaptation effectiveness across scales: from communities to sub-national, national and global frameworks' will hopefully provide answers too
  4. I worry about how initiatives such as the slaughterhouse will cope with climate change themselves. Will pastoralism still be a viable future livelihood option in the Maasai rangelands if climate change is not stopped or at least slowed down? Perhaps the radical adaptation session at CBA9 will address the kinds of transformative changes needed when smaller incremental changes are no longer enough, and
  5. Lastly, it was clear from my visit to the Keekonyokie slaughterhouse that adaptation cannot be considered in isolation. At the community level it makes no sense to separate adaptation from mitigation and development activities because the connections between them are so strong. If activities are 'joined up' at the community level, efforts to move out of siloes and adopt more integrated approaches to planning and policy making above the community level need strengthening. 

Hannah Reid ([email protected]) is a consultant researcher working with IIED as part of the Climate Change Group and the biodiversity team. This is the fifth CBA conference she has managed.