Climate change escalating resource-based conflicts in northern Kenya

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climate change
Climate change

Kenya’s northern frontier region that is predominantly inhabited by pastoralists is grappling with a spike in resource based conflicts linked to climate change, officials said on Tuesday.

The officials and green campaigners said at a forum in northern Kenyan county of Laikipia that strengthening response to the climate crisis is key to reduce conflicts over water and pasture among herders and subsistence farmers.

John Letei, officer in charge of climate change in Laikipia County, said extreme weather events including recurrent droughts have exacerbated competition for dwindling resources, leading to inter-communal violence.

“We are witnessing sporadic clashes over water and grazing land that have escalated against a backdrop of climate change-induced droughts,” Letei said during the launch of Mount Kenya Forum on Climate Governance in the central Kenyan town of Nanyuki.

He said, the recent skirmishes that erupted in Laikipia County, leading to loss of lives and destruction of property were partly fuelled by a prolonged dry spell.

He said the majority of northern Kenyan counties have experienced failed or suppressed rains since the beginning of the year, leading to acute hunger, water stress and forced displacement of herders and small-holder farmers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in September declared drought, which had affected more than 2 million people in a dozen arid and semi-arid counties, a national disaster.

The Kenyan leader said that failed rains have created an acute food and water crisis in the country’s arid regions, adding that the government would step in to avert a humanitarian crisis.

Green campaigners said that climate change presents an existential threat to livelihoods of farmers and nomads in northern Kenya, hence the need to roll out robust mitigation and adaptation measures.

Mithika Mwenda, Executive Director of Nairobi-based Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), said that strengthening climate resilience of communities inhabiting northern Kenya is key to avert conflicts over scarce water and pasture.

Mwenda said there is the need for Kenya to develop climate-proof sectors like agriculture, tourism and fisheries in order to sustain livelihoods of communities living in the arid regions.

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