West Pokot Pastoralist Recent Climate Change adaptation strategies: Livestock Migration

By Dr. Namenya Daniel Naburi  BRECcIA Post Doc and Joseph Lolentum) August 2021

Climate change shocks has exposed pastoralists to loss of livelihood and infringement of children rights. Children are the main source of family labour during drought period such as the one experienced from May – October 2021. Many young boys drop out of school to help their parents in migrating their livestock to where they can access pasture and water. In Pokot culture, the bright young male child is valued and mentored to form part of the warriors who provide security to their animals and families from external attacks by cattle rustlers (In the video interview with this young boy, Samuel, has been forced to drop out of school in form two in order for him to migrate with cattle as a result of the biting drought. He narrates to us, BRECcIA researcher Dr. Namenya Daniel Naburi and Joseph Lolemtum, how he is not pleased with having to dropping out of school and asks if we can help by relocating him from the neighbouring school where he was enrolled and pay fees for him to avoid disruptions caused by his family as they pull him out of school to migrate with cattle in search of pasture during the dry season). The number of boys in schools reduce drastically during drought periods due to high levels of dropping out. (This has been the major challenge in the implementation of Basic Education Policies among the pastoralist communities in Kenya. Pastoralist communities prioritise the good welfare of cattle over taking their bright male children to school). On migration, you can find young boys constituting the highest number of people moving with animals either across to Lake Kyoga grazing grounds in Uganda or towards Nasalot Game Reserve and Marichpas the borders between the pastoralist Pokots and Turkanas. This area is a wet fertile land and retains moist for long during the dry spells. That is why it remains a conflict zone between the two communities during drought. (In this video, we asked Samuel what will happen when they meet with migrating Turkana groups, he answered that nowadays tensions have reduced and, in most cases,, they graze together until when a few of them with ill motives start stealing cattle from each other. The main reason given was that even their mates from Turkana are forced out of school and when they meet, they feel betrayed by their families for having to drop out of school to take care of livestock). Livestock migration is the main strategy the pastoralist has been using to respond to effects of extreme climate in West Pokot and other neighbouring counties in Kenya. Those pastoralists in Pokot Central Sub-county migrate towards Turkana County along River Kerio, while for Pokot North Sub-county, animals migrate to Lake Kyoga in Uganda. During migration, conflicts are expected due to increased competition for pasture and water. However, in Uganda, less conflicts are reported because Pokot community is also resident in Uganda. Climate change impacts have also hit the families too hard. Most families are experiencing reduced number of cattle and increasing family sizes. This situation has left most of the families hopeless and doing whatever they can during droughts to secure the remaining few cattle. (In this video interview, we are informed that a family of approximately 8 persons has an average number of 15 to 20 herds of cattle as compared to 10 years ago when the same family could have 30 to 40 herds of cattle. This number is too small given various family basic needs, buying livestock medicines and paying school fees for the children.) Therefore, the Pokot pastoralist communities feel that climate change has disenfranchised them and no support is coming from external donors and government because conflicts have resulted in being labelled a ‘hostile waring community’. They have now transformed and are welcoming working with their neighbours, the government and donors to improve their wellbeing in these tough times of increasing threats of climate change.

One comment

  1. Kaleb Mwendwa

    Interesting insights from West Pokot by Dr Daniel Namenya. This shows the complexities and impacts of climate change. Adaptive capacity is multi-faceted and comes with unintended trade-offs.

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