All of our research sites are connected as parts of a lengthy livestock marketing chain that is more than 1,000 km long. The study area was conceived in some ways as a set of sites representing variation in market access, ethnic background, and ecological conditions in a broadly defined “market shed” that gathers livestock ultimately destined for East Africa’s largest city, Nairobi. At the time we began our study, the largest market force drawing livestock from our study area was the Nairobi livestock market, which draws animals from as far away as southern Ethiopia, western Uganda, southern Somalia, and northern Tanzania1 (for Uganda and Tanzania, see Fleisher 2000 and Zaal et al. 2006; Somalia and Ethiopia see Mahmoud 2006; Sudan see Aklilu 2002, Mulugeta et al. 2007; regionally see Little 2003, 2008, 2009). The area of this “market shed” appears to expand and contract in ways that maintain adequate animal flows to meet consumer demand in the urban centers of Kenya, most notably Nairobi. Proximity and market relationships in the study region move the animals toward Nairobi, where closer proximity and better relationships lead to higher producer prices.2 Studies have shown that the consumer price for a kilogram of meat in Addis Ababa and Nairobi is roughly the same and roughly equal to world market price (Agriconsortium 2003). The lack of fluctuation in the Nairobi meat price has drawn attention and probably reflects both non-competitive behavior among the purchasers in the terminal markets (Aklilu 2002) and the expansion or contraction of the market shed to maintain a stable price. As noted in a recent report, Kenya is deficient in meat production such that consumption levels are 30 percent greater than domestic production (Agriconsortium 2003). Aklilu reports:
. . . combined outputs of beef from pastoral areas (from within Kenya and through cross-border trade) supply a little over two-thirds of the domestic beef requirement . . . some 46 percent of the beef production came from pastoral areas of Kenya while about 26 percent was supplied through the crossborder market.