Scientists seek ways on how pastoralists can dodge extreme climatic conditions

13 January 2018
Author :   Isaiah Esipisu
Dr Evans Kituyi

Dr Evans Kituyi is a research scientist and a Senior Programme Specialist at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)’s Climate Change Programme, charged with overseeing the successful implementation of the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA)programme jointly funded by Canada’s IDRC and UK’s DFID. The Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE) consortium partners led by the UK based Overseas Development Institute (ODI)is one of the four consortia implementing CARIAA.

In Kenya, the PRISE consortium researchers have been working closely with vulnerable pastoral communities in Laikipia to understand how such communities can enhance the value chains of their livestock so as to avoid huge losses especially during extreme droughts.

In essence, the project is looking at how pastoralist communities may convert the climate change threat to the sector into opportunities for resilience.

Dr Kituyi spoke to PAMACC News reporter ISAIAH ESIPISU about the ongoing research in Kenya.

Q. What is Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE) project all about?

This is a 5-year multi-country research project covering Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kenya, Senegal, and Burkina Faso. The consortium is working in collaboration with a team of country partners who have extensive expertise in research and policy on climate change and semi-arid regions to generate new knowledge about how economic development in semi-arid regions can be made more equitable and resilient to climate change.

The project supports decision-makers in local and national governments, civil society and businesses to strengthen their commitment to influencing policy interventions and investments that create more equitable and resilient economic development.
This is achieved by transforming the way key policy-makers make decisions through deepening their understanding of how climate change presents both threats and opportunities for economies in semi-arid areas.

Q. How has climate change and climate variations affected pastoral communities in Kenya?

Extreme climatic conditions have always lowered value of livestock animals and their products. When this happens, it reduces incomes from the markets, and in extreme conditions, it leads to death of the animals. This leads to poverty. As a result, desperate communities will always opt to raid neighbouring communities so as to replenish their lost stocks. More often than not, the stock theft leads to people slaying each other, and houses being torched, which further accelerates poverty.

Q.  Following lessons learned from the project so far, how can pastoralist communities enhance value chain of their animals and develop resilience to climate change and climate variations?

The first one is commercialization of livestock production. This can be done in collaboration with the private sector and the government. If the animals are sold way before they are emaciated, they will fetch good income for the owner, which can help them restock once the dry season is over.

There is therefore need for pastoral communities to be given adequate access to market information for easy commercialization of their animals.

The second one is the need for improved financial services for pastoralist communities. This will help them manage their finances well after selling their stocks, hence buy more stock once the climatic conditions are conducive.

Third, there is need for increased investment in early warning systems. County governments should take this as priority number one. It is only through information from these systems that pastoralists can know the opportune time for selling their stocks.

Others include upgrading animal health services, increasing market access, development of policy frameworks to support the pastoralist economy; and increased tenure security, particularly around land.

Q. How does the PRISE project on ‘Enhancing Resilience for Livestock Value Chain’ fit in Kenya’s context?

Kenya is in the processes of implementing its Climate Change Action Plan—and the PRISE strategy of enhancing resilience of livestock value chains is consistent with this Plan. Similarly, the AU through the 2016 Livestock Development Strategy (LiDeSA) emphasized the critical role of value chains in enhancing resilience in the sector.

Q. What do you think should be done to ensure lessons are brought to the national agenda?

That will only happen through increased communication of research findings to diverse audiences using different media channels.

There is also need for political goodwill so that parliament in particular can highlight and debate the subject in relation to research findings —considering it is a major issue during drought. Already, a parliamentary group on pastoral areas exists and needs to be more proactive on engaging stakeholders to adopt innovations emerging from participatory research.

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