Climate change, violent conflict and local institutions in Kenya’s drylands

Type Journal Article - Journal of Peace Research
Title Climate change, violent conflict and local institutions in Kenya’s drylands
Volume 49
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
Page numbers 65-80
Many regions that are endowed with scarce natural resources such as arable land and water, and which are remote
from a central government, suffer from violence and ethnic strife. A number of studies have looked at the convergence
of economic, political and ecological marginality in several African countries. However, there is limited empirical
study on the role of violence in pastoral livelihoods across ecological and geographical locations. Yet, case studies
focusing on livelihood and poverty issues could inform us about violent behaviour as collective action or as individual
decisions, and to what extent such decisions are informed or explained by specific climatic conditions. Several case
studies point out that violence is indeed an enacted behaviour, rooted in culture and an accepted form of interaction.
This article critically discusses the relevance of geographical and climatic parameters in explaining the connection
between poverty and violent conflicts in Kenya’s pastoral areas. These issues are considered vis-a`-vis the role institutional
arrangements play in preventing violent conflict over natural resources from occurring or getting out of
hand. The article uses long-term historical data, archival information and a number of fieldwork sources. The results
indicate that the context of violence does not deny its agency in explanation of conflicts, but the institutional set-up
may ultimately explain the occurrence of the resource curse.

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