Improving Drought Response in Pastoral Areas of Kenya

Research reports and studies
October 2009
Catherine Longley, Mike Wekesa

The impact of recurrent drought-related crises in the Horn of Africa is rapidly escalating, with more and more people being affected each time a drought occurs. The current ability of pastoralists to respond to drought is limited not only due to the increasing frequency of drought, but also due to increasing population, a dwindling resource base, conflict, changes in access to land and water, as well as the impact of other shocks such as flooding and disease outbreaks.

In Kenya, emergency interventions that tend to be implemented in response to drought are very effective in terms of saving lives, but they are not designed to address the chronic poverty or vulnerability that characterise the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). Experience suggests that the most effective way of providing aid in such situations is through protecting people’s livelihoods. Livelihood interventions are defined as those that aim to protect or enhance livelihood assets, strategies and outcomes; they can contribute both to saving lives and to building resilience and addressing vulnerability.

This briefing paper explores the responses to the 2005–2006 drought in Kenya’s ASALs, focusing particularly on the extent to which livelihoods interventions were implemented among pastoral populations. It is based on research that analyses the contextual factors (i.e. practices, capacities, structures, policies and rationale) that influenced the actions taken in the 2005–2006 drought response, and identifies the mechanisms, systems, functions and institutions that need to be strengthened to allow for more timely and appropriate livelihood responses in future.

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