The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 623–642 | Cite as

Drought Coping and Adaptation Strategies: Understanding Adaptations to Climate Change in Agro-pastoral Livestock Production in Makueni District, Kenya

  • Chinwe Ifejika Speranza
Original Article


Using drought as a lens, this article analyses how agro-pastoralists in Makueni district, Kenya adapt their livestock production to climate variability and change. Data were collected from a longitudinal survey of 127 agro-pastoral households. Approximately one-third of the households have inadequate feeds, and livestock diseases are major challenges during non-drought and drought periods. Agro-pastoralists’ responses to drought are reactive and mainly involve intensifying exploitation of resources and the commons. Proactive responses such as improving production resources are few. Poverty, limited responses to market dynamics and inadequate skills constrain adaptations. Many agro-pastoralists’ attachment to livestock deters livestock divestment, favouring disadvantageous sales that result in declining incomes. To improve adaptive capacity, interventions should expose agro-pastoralists to other forms of savings, incorporate agro-pastoralists as agents of change by building their capacity to provide extension services, and maintain infrastructure. Securing livestock mobility, pasture production and access is crucial under the variable social-ecological conditions.

En se servant de la sécheresse comme point de départ, cet article analyse comment les agro-pastoralistes du district de Makueni au Kenya adaptent leurs moyens de subsistance à la variabilité et au changement climatiques. Il s′appuie sur des données issues d′une enquête longitudinale auprès de 127 ménages agro-pastoraux. Environ un tiers des ménages ont des animaux mal nourris, et l′état de santé du bétail est un problème majeur aussi bien en temps de sécheresse qu′en absence de sècheresse. Les actions adoptées par les éleveurs en réponse à la sécheresse sont réactives et consistent essentiellement en une intensification de l′exploitation des ressources et des biens communaux, et peu en des mesures pro-actives telles que l′amélioration des ressources de production. La pauvreté de ces populations, leurs réponses imparfaites aux dynamiques de marché et leur manque de compétences limitent leur capacité d′adaptation. Le fort attachement de nombreux éleveurs au bétail les empêche de se désengager de l′élevage; ceci mène à des ventes de bétail défavorables aux éleveurs et entraîne un déclin de leurs revenus. Afin d′améliorer leur capacité d′adaptation, des interventions devraient être entreprises pour exposer les agro-pastoralistes à d′autres formes d′épargne. En outre, la capacité des éleveurs à fournir des services de vulgarisation agricole et à maintenir les infrastructures doit être développée. Dans un contexte de variabilité socio-écologique, il est crucial d′assurer la mobilité du bétail, ainsi que la production de pâturages et leur accessibilité.


drought agro-pastoralists climate variability climate change adaptation Kenya 



The author acknowledges support from the Volkswagen Foundation and the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South: Research Partnerships for Mitigating Syndromes of Global Change, cofounded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). I thank Tobias Hagmann, Gilbert Fokou and Henri Rueff for commenting on previous versions, and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chinwe Ifejika Speranza
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Training and Integrated Research for Arid and Semi-arid Lands Development (CETRAD)NanyukiKenya
  2. 2.University of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.German Development InstituteBonnGermany

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