Livestock Systems

Local forms of resilience in pastoral areas: a scoping study in Northern Kenya

cattle grazing
Project code
AUD 100,000
Research program manager
Dr Anna Okello
Project leader
Ian Scoones
Commissioned organisation
Institute of Development Studies
SEP 2022
JUN 2023
Project status
Legally committed/Active
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This project aims to develop an approach suited to pastoral settings centred on generating reliability in the face of uncertain shocks and stresses in East Africa.

This scoping study will provide the basis for the development of LS/2022/144, with refined questions and elaborated methodologies, which will develop a more in-depth and action-oriented approach towards how the concept of resilience could be interpreted and supported across northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia.

Pastoralists in the dryland areas of East Africa are being confronted with increasing climate uncertainty. The effects of climate change are combined with market volatility, animal and human disease as well as conflict. Pastoralists must continuously live with uncertainty in highly variable conditions. Building resilience in the face of these intersecting shocks and stresses is a vital development imperative.

Focusing a series of shocks identified for the scoping study case study area in Isiolo and Marsabit districts, northern Kenya, we will identify what we are referring to as ‘high reliability professionals’ (Konaka 2021) and how they are able to navigate the particular shocks. We will:

  • explore what networks/relationships they are embedded in and what practices are deployed in what sequence were deployed in relation to each chosen shock
  • examine how the responses to particular shocks draw on existing forms of ‘moral economy’ (the social basis for redistribution and sharing within society) and how responses are differentiated a) by type of shock and b) by social group (especially by gender)
  • explore how these responses contrast with more standard project-based interventions under livelihoods/reliance/livelihoods programmes and tentatively suggest what an alternative approach to resilience building (reliability generation) might look like for the drylands.

Project activities

  • Document the local practices employed by pastoralists to address climate change and assess their efficacy, social differentiation and shock type/locational specificity. This will begin the development of an evolving approach to thinking about resilience, linking to a high reliability perspective, rooted in a field based participatory methodology.
  • Begin developing and refine a methodology that goes beyond a simple replication of the production-based, risk management responses (that dominate existing programming) to offer the outlines of a more grounded, locally relevant perspective on resilience building and climate adaptation.
  • Develop the Preliminary and Full proposals for LS/2022/144 to start in 2023-24FY. 
illustration of a map showing Kenya
Key partners
Centre for Research and Development in the Drylands (CRDD)
Institute of Development Studies