From bush to butchery: cattle rustling as an entrepreneurial process in Kenya

Emmanuel K. Bunei, Gerard McElwee, Robert Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of the changing practices of cattle rustling in Kenya from a relatively small isolated and opportunistic activity to a much more planned and systematic entrepreneurial business involving collusion and corruption.

Design/methodology/approach – This paper provides a conceptual approach using key literature and documentary evidence to show how, in the northern part of Kenya, cattle rustling is common occurrence with criminals taking advantage of remote rural environments with minimal surveillance and consequently less opportunity of being stopped and searched by police.

Findings – Results evidence significant differences in how rustling is perceived and valorized. Rustling in Kenya is now an entrepreneurial crime with the involvement of rural organized criminal gangs (ROCGs), who are operating in food supply chains throughout Kenya and the African continent.

Practical/implications – This paper suggests that a more nuanced understanding of the entrepreneurial nature of some illegal practices in a rural Kenya is necessary and how it requires multi-agency investigation.

Originality/value – The paper is unique in that it considers how cattle rustling is becoming a more entrepreneurial crime than previously. Little prior work on this subject exists in Kenya. The paper utilizes the framework of Smith and McElwee (2013) on illegal enterprise to frame cattle rustling as an entrepreneurial crime.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-61
Number of pages16
JournalSociety and Business Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2016


  • Cattle rustling
  • Criminal networks
  • Entrepreneurial crime
  • Kenyan farmers


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