Different counties in Kenya have their unique challenges which call for different strategies to address their development needs. Our focus today is on the pastoralist communities whose mobile way of life may makes it difficult for them to benefit from ongoing sustainable development initiatives.

Pastoralists who are often considered to be among the most economically and socially disadvantaged groups tend to have limited access to extension and veterinary services. They also have limited access to major consumer markets and other development opportunities that may arise. In addition, they face threats, often occasioned by effects of climate change and droughts which hinder the availability of pasture and water for their livestock. As a result, the pastoralists end up moving from one area to another in search for water and pasture. The movement exposes them to trans-boundary animal diseases and sanitation challenges which they perennially struggle with. The problem is compounded by lack of institutional and policy frameworks that specifically address their nomadic lifestyles.

Therefore, addressing the unique needs of pastoralist or nomadic communities is crucial to Kenya’s economy since the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs) of Kenya is the home of approximately six million people.

Managing Scarcity and Plenty: Towards Climate- Smart Pastoral Innovations in Kenya project

To strengthen evidence on climate- smart pastoral innovations, the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) implemented a project to build the capacity of beneficiaries to respond more effectively to animal health, climatic change/extreme weather conditions, market opportunities and policy. The project focused on pastoralist areas of Kenya- Turkana, Marsabit and Lodwar.

The project, implemented under the Economic Governance programme of Open Society Institute for East Africa (OSIEA), aimed to build evidence on climate-smart pastoral innovations in disease surveillance and management. Additionally, the project aimed to build evidence on innovative livestock marketing and trading initiatives to facilitate learning, uptake, and up-scaling.

The knowledge generated would prepare pastoral communities to actively participate in policy debates, dialogues, and action. The ensuing participation would provide spaces/platforms for these communities to present policy recommendations. Ultimately, this would facilitate the uptake of policies either through legislation or by informing the design and implementation of various programmes that target pastoralists.

To achieve these objectives, the project identified and sensitized the community on potential climate-smart pastoral practices. Participatory assessment of opportunities for livestock commercialisation enabled CABE to identify the capacity gaps which limit the commercialisation of pastoralist activities. Additionally, the project identified policy spaces for local stakeholder engagement and built the capacity of pastoralists to influence policy. Importantly, the project documented various innovations in integrated disease management using indigenous technical knowledge and modern ICT-based provision of veterinary services.

“Climate change has been with us since 1753. We have witnessed abnormal rains, it can rain for a whole day, then the rains disappear for one year. This has made me lose livestock, I have lost more than 3000 animals from 1989 periodically,” says Tumal Orto, a pastoralist in Marsabit.

CABE’s climate adaptation and mitigation efforts resonates with the Kenyan government’s commitment to address climate change to provide solutions to most of the country’s development challenges. This is evident in the anchoring of the environmental pillar in Kenya’s blueprint Vision 2030 and the big four agenda (manufacturing, farming, health care and low-cost housing.

“It’s a reality today that we will have to work in different ways to be responsive to climate change so as to sustain economic development,” says Kenya’s president, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta during his address on the 5th  United Nations Environment Assembly held on 23 February 2021.

A community learning centre

The knowledge, and contributions of this project culminated into the establishment of a learning centre. “We though to set up a leaning centre that integrates indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge because we believe that climate change adaptation and mitigation can be contributed by both indigenous people’s knowledge and scientific knowledge.”

Cumulatively, CABE’s work on climate change mitigation and adaptation will increase the pastoralist communities’ ability to effectively manage scarcity and surplus amidst extreme weather events which have increasingly become erratic in the last decade due to climate change. Ultimately, this will build the resilience among Kenya’s pastoralist communities and subsequently improve Kenya’s economy.

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