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Abstract The very nature of pastoralist livelihoods in the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (asal) means exposure to substantial vulnerability. Cattle, the main productive asset doubles as a store of wealth. As such, the buffer stock provided by wealth can not be used as insurance against adverse shocks that affect productive assets. This vulnerability could be reduced substantially through monetization of parstoralist livelihoods. Indeed, over the last decades, there are signs that some markets that focus on live cattle export to Sudan and further to the Arabian peninsula have been booming. Still, the majority of pastoralists' interactions with the market remains low, with frequency and timing determined by immediate cash needs. We look at what structural factors are responsible for the growth of the export markets, and ask if lessons can be learned to increase market participation in poorly integrated pastoralist systems.