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University of Alberta (2010)

Famine, Displacement, and Destitution among Pastoralist Communities in Northeastern Kenya

Habiba Mohamud

Titre : Famine, Displacement, and Destitution among Pastoralist Communities in Northeastern Kenya

Auteur : Mohamud, Habiba

Université de soutenance : University of Alberta

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2010

Famine in sub-Saharan Africa is among the leading contributory causes of internal displacement among pastoral communities. Understanding pastoral vulnerability to famine and their contemporary survival strategies is therefore critical for mitigation planning. This study draws on the experience of internally displaced Somali pastoralists living in the Northeastern province (NEP) of Kenya, an area with a long history of food insecurity. Specifically, the study examines the causes of famine and its subsequent effects of displacement and destitution in order to bring into context site-specific interventions. Special attention is focused on understanding the implications of social dislocation with a view to illuminate the inherent potential for change on IDPs livelihoods within their respective socio-economic milieu. The fieldwork was carried out in two sites (Wajir and Garissa) in NEP. A total of 48 semi-structured interviews and 104 surveyed households were covered by the field research. These were supplemented by participant observation, and documentary materials pertaining to drought and famine in sub-Saharan Africa. Data were analyzed using qualitative and quantitative techniques. The findings illustrate that the Northeastern Kenya arid ecosystem experienced famine vulnerability owing to structural factors that seem to destabilize the livelihoods of nomadic pastoralists, forcing them to painstakingly forego that lifelong inherent tradition all-together. The study participants attribute their displacement and destitution to famine, which they define as a complex and interminable process rather than a time-bound event. The IDPs mentioned sequences of events which include, but not limited to, climate change resulting in recurrent drought and floods, followed by population pressure and overgrazing, and diseases. Additionally, IDPs face various barriers in their search for meaningful livelihoods such as weak governance (failures of market institutions, untimely response to famine, inappropriate representation and participation, and lack of trust in government led initiatives), and aridity of NEP. These barriers are not tackled among the pastoral society and mere imposing pseudo-community development as a solution proved to be unsuccessful. Furthermore, the study’s findings established that the theory of entitlement failures alone is insufficient to provide a comprehensive and holistic understanding of famine and its impacts on communities in African drylands. Accordingly, for the purpose of sustainable livelihoods, particularly for Northeast Kenya, community economic development model is likely to be more effective than past community development practices.

Mots Clés : Social sciences, Kenya, Famine, Destitution, Displacement, Pastoral communities


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