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“You Can Steal Livestock but You Can’t Steal Trees.” The Livelihood Benefits of Agroforestry during and after Violent Conflict


While violent conflict affects the lives of 1.5 billion people globally, little is known about how such people support and feed themselves. We explore how agroforestry may be used as a livelihood strategy to build livelihood resilience during and immediately after violent conflict. Research was conducted in Burat, Kenya, which underwent violent conflict over local ethnic politics and control in 2012 before the 2013 elections. Research included 13 qualitative case study households and 187 quantitative household surveys. Major livelihood coping strategies during the conflict included aid, help from relatives, and casual labor, with agroforestry as a supplementary livelihood activity for some. Our results are context-specific, but suggest that agroforestry can build livelihood resilience during and after conflict by providing income and food, places to hide from attackers, and construction materials for rebuilding homes.

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Most importantly we would like to acknowledge the community of Burat that so graciously welcomed us and to the households that shared their very personal experiences of the 2012 conflict. Second, this research would not have been possible without the assistance of the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, and the Kenya Red Cross Society – Isiolo Branch. Red Cross Volunteers played an integral role in all stages of data collection, and a special thanks goes to Noor Hussein and Tonny Mwiti. We would also like to thank Joel Harrter, Henry Neufeldt,, Lisa Dilling, Myles Osborne, and Max Boykoff for their feedback on research instruments. Lastly, we thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and feedback.

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Correspondence to Amy Quandt.

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This study was funded by the US Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Graduate Research Grant (grant number 206766), which supported field and research costs for Quandt

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Quandt, A., McCabe, J.T. “You Can Steal Livestock but You Can’t Steal Trees.” The Livelihood Benefits of Agroforestry during and after Violent Conflict. Hum Ecol 45, 463–473 (2017).

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  • Agroforestry
  • Kenya
  • Conflict
  • Livelihoods
  • Resilience