Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program


University of California at Davis

Publication Date



Collective action can be an effective means of local development and risk reduction among rural people, but few examples have been documented in pastoral areas. We conducted extensive interviews for 16 women’s groups residing in northern Kenya. Our objectives were to understand how groups were formed, governed, and sustained and what activities they have pursued. The groups we interviewed were 10 years old, on average. Charter memberships averaged about 24 women, 20 of whom were illiterate. Half of the groups formed after facilitation by a development partner and half formed spontaneously. Groups are governed under detailed constitutional frameworks with elected leaders. Groups primarily form to improve living standards of the members and undertake a wide variety of activities founded on savings and credit schemes, income diversification, small business development, education, health service delivery, and natural resource management. Groups have evolved means to buffer members from drought and poverty. The greatest threats to the sustainability of the groups come from internal factors such as unfavorable group dynamics and illiteracy, while external challenges include drought, poverty, and political incitement. Principles of good group governance and wisdom in business are reportedly the key ingredients for long-term success.