Latest Research Brief Examines How Climate Impacts Place Kenyan Livelihoods Under Pressure

24 April 2024

Drawing on primary data collected in drought-affected areas of Kenya, our latest Research Brief, ‘Unpacking the Climate Migration Extremism Nexus Mapping the Coping Strategies of Kenyan Pastorialists’ sets out how climate impacts are placing pastoralist livelihoods under increasing pressure. Authored by Dr Erica Harper, Head of Research and Policy Studies, and Dr Yosuke Nagai, Executive Director of Accept International and Visiting Research Fellow, these challenges are manifesting in intra- and inter-community conflict, usually over boundaries or access to shared resources.

Disputes becoming more violent

Dr Harper noted, ‘Such disputes appear to have escalated sharply in the last decade, and have become significantly more violent. This is especially problematic in tribal areas, where norms of collective responsibility and retaliatory justice create cycles of violence that are difficult to interrupt’.

A further finding is that pastoralists increasingly regard migration or joining a violent extremist group as strategies for mitigating their exposure to unemployment and poverty. These pathways, however, are not clear cut and in many ways challenge dominant policy thinking.

Mitigation assistance misplaced

Dr Harper explained, ‘A vast majority of the most impacted pastoralists have a strong preference to remain on their land for as long as this is viable. For those that view migration positively, a rural area, either in their own or another country, is judged preferable to an urban location’.

In terms of addressing these phenomena, the research found that ‘climate-proofing’ pastoral livelihoods is the preferred course of action for affected individuals, and the one most likely to protect against armed groups capitalizing on community vulnerabilities. ‘The irony is that while adaptation and mitigation assistance is sorely needed in locales such as Garissa and Turkana, these are the places to which it is not flowing. Challenges around technology transfer and uptake need to be prioritized and overcome’, noted Dr Harper.

This research forms part of a broader project on Forgotten Threats in Climate-Food Insecurity, sponsored by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung. Other themes addressed under the project include damage to food systems during armed conflict and the risks associated with large-scale land leasing and resource extraction contracts.

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