A changing climate - A study on the challenge of climate change and pastoralist livelihoods amongst the Waso Boran in Northern Kenya

Iona Denise Eberle

Student thesis: Master thesis


Climate change has been emphasised as one of the most pressing challenges, particularly for those communities who are dependent on climate sensitive activities and resources for their livelihoods. Concerns have been raised regarding the sustainability of pastoralist livelihoods in the drylands as climate change will increase climatic variability and the frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, which already are putting significant pressure on local pastoralist populations. Building on a case study of the Waso Boran in Northern Kenya, this thesis explores how climatic stress and other stress factors affect local livelihoods. Most local actors interviewed led up until recently semi-nomadic pastoralist lives, but were compelled to settle and diversify their livelihoods due to large livestock losses following the effects of recent drought events. By more closely investigating drought as a risk and taking a historical perspective, drivers and characteristics of pastoralist vulnerability are examined. It is found that current patterns of vulnerability are very much linked to the historical developments that have shaped and altered Waso Boran livelihoods, which increasingly have been oriented towards resources and activities outside of pastoralism. As droughts elicit a range of other risks, such as conflicts and disease, pastoralist vulnerability is engendered through a multitude of stress factors which need to be addressed in order to reduce vulnerability. The current livelihood strategies pursued by settled pastoralists are further explored, notably with respect to the prospects of reducing social vulnerability to climatic stress. While diversification appeared as a favoured strategy, diversification is hampered due to the lack of alternatives to climate sensitive activities. Informants thus continue to having to depend on their livestock, notably for income, and thus remain vulnerable to climatic stress. Seeing that sedentarisation and diversification do not entail a break with pastoralism, but settled pastoralists remain very much tied to the pastoralist economy, climate change adaptation will need to create enabling conditions for both diversification and livestock keeping.

EducationsInternational Development Studies, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date7 Nov 2011
SupervisorsOle Bruun


  • livelihoods
  • vulnerability
  • Kenya
  • pastoralism
  • climate change