Risk Assessment of Traditional Strategies, Values and Practices of Pastoralists to Climate Change and Variability: A Case of West Pokot County, Kenya

Raphael P. Magal, Boniface N. Wambua, Stella Mukhovi


The study was undertaken in Kongelai Ward, West Pokot County, because of its vulnerability to changing and erratic rainfall pattern which has adversely affected pastoralism. It focused on better understanding of climate change and variability on two climatic factors, rainfall and temperature, in order to provide insights on pastoralists’ risk management adaptations at a micro-level using Indigenous Knowledge. Pearson chi square test was performed to test the hypothesis on whether there is an association between climate variability and change, and traditional strategies, value and practices utilized by the Pokot pastoral community. Both primary and secondary data was used. Household questionnaire survey, focus group discussion and key informants interviews were used to collect primary data at household and community levels. Primary data (through questionnaires) was collected from a sample survey whereby Nasuirma model formula was used to arrive at the sample size of 98 households taken from 5,596 households. Multi-stage sampling technique was used, and information obtained was analyzed using inferential and descriptive statistics..  The results indicated that 100% of the respondents have heard and experienced effects of climate change and variability on their localities.94% of the farmers still use Indigenous knowledge on agriculture/livestock keeping, prediction of different weather patterns and food preservation techniques in the management of their farms. The indigenous signs and strategies used for coping with climate change and variability were different between the pastoralists and agro pastoralists. Some Positive indigenous strategies that are being practiced by agro pastoralists included; use of organic manure, crop rotation, traditional food preservation methods, use of ash to preserve the seedlings, agro forestry, irrigation, planting of appropriate crop varieties, preservation of pastures, application of organic and inorganic fertilizers and soil and water conservation while pastoralists use separation of livestock to control breeding, use of traditional herbs to treat animal diseases and migration of livestock, planting of drought tolerant crops, rain water harvesting, keeping of drought resistant animals and management of pest and diseases.

The FGDs further indicated that women from pastoral areas prefer other strategies in coping with drought such as use of shallow wells to draw water, separation of livestock to control breeding as compared to the men who prefer migration of animals during drought in search of water and pastures.

The nomadic transhumance practiced by Pokot pastoralists is characterized by risk-spreading and flexible mechanisms, such as mobility, communal land ownership, large and diverse herd sizes, and herd separation and splitting. A positive and significant influence on the likelihood that households perceive climate variability and change is determined by Livestock ownership and herd size. In addition, this study revealed that access to extension services significantly increases the likelihood that households perceive climate variability and change.

From the socio-economic factors examined, the results suggest that female-headed households are more likely to perceive a change in climate such as increase in temperature and decrease in the length of rainy seasons than male-headed households.  The findings suggested that most respondents rely on traditional approach when making coping strategies compared to the scientific approach because of the low level of literacy and accessibility to ICT materials to pass information and communication. 62% of the respondents interviewed agreed that they have alternative strategies for adaptation to climate change and variability while 38% do not have an alternative source. Most commonly used adaptation strategies include; Diversification of livelihood (92%), Livestock mobility (94%), sending children to school (56%), Strategic livestock feed (35%), Develop water sources (15%),Change in diet consumption (78%),Livestock off-take (25%),Storage of pasture (35%).Other strategies include increase in sale of livestock, Cash transfers from relatives, livestock insurance and use of early warning information. Recommendations include; better planning and target interventions, Awareness creation on environment, alternative income source, support pastoralists adaptation and coping strategies, enhancement of extension services, documentation and dissemination of indigenous knowledge, and enhance pastoralists’ resilience to drought and heat stresses

The findings of this study therefore, have contributed to a better understanding of risk assessment of the coping and adaptation mechanisms for Pokot pastoralists households’ to climate change and variability and  provides information for supporting adaptation interventions, particularly on how Pokot pastoralist can take advantage of the heterogeneity of the arid and semi-arid environments.



climate change and variability; traditional strategies, risk assessment

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.24203/ajafs.v5i4.4955


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