Climate Risks and Responses in Semi-Arid Kenya: Implications for Community-Based Adaptation

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International Journal of Research and Scientific Innovation (IJRSI) | Volume VI, Issue IX, September 2019 | ISSN 2321–2705

Climate Risks and Responses in Semi-Arid Kenya: Implications for Community-Based Adaptation

Thomas Opande, Prof. Daniel Olago, Dr. Simeon Dulo

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Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Abstract: – Communities in semi-arid areas face multiple climatic and non-climatic risks forcing them to subsequently adopt various response strategies. Research on risk management has typically focused on static, location-specific understanding of risk and response. However, empirical evidence suggest that risks and vulnerability vary across time and space. Increasingly, responses traverse multiple locations and dynamic e.g. people migrate away from their home areas, women move beyond their family homes for a better livelihood. To highlight this complex and dynamic nature of risks and responses, we study livelihood transitions in Kisumu, western Kenya. We unpack risk and response portfolios across scales – household, and levels – and classify them as coping, adaptive and maladaptive.
Our findings show that present responses do not necessarily qualify as climate change adaptation strategies. While certain strategies do improve household wellbeing in the short run, there is relatively lower evidence to suggest an increase in adaptive capacity to deal with future climatic risks.
These findings point to critical gaps in understanding current risk management and will contribute to the climate policy framework especially community adaptation.

Key words: semi-arid, livelihoods, climate adaptation, vulnerability, risk management


Livelihood vulnerability of small-scale farmers is characterized by a range of interacting social, economic, political, and environmental changes (Tucker et al., 2015; Stringer et al., 2017). This vulnerability is exacerbated by inherently low agricultural productivity (Thornton et al., 2009), rapid and increasing natural resource degradation (Stringer et al., 2017), inadequate governance responses to support diversification and adaptation responses (Tucker et al., 2015), and an overall poor performance on development indicators due to economic marginalization (Tucker et al., 2015).Climate change is projected to exacerbate these challenges especially in Africa, by pushing farming systems to cross biophysical thresholds with long-term implications on livelihoods and agricultural sustainability (Fraser et al., 2011; Tucker et al., 2015).