The long-term impact of multi-season droughts on livestock holdings and Pastoralist decision-making in Marsabit, Kenya

Mauerman, Max; Ross, Carson; Ilboudo Nébié, Elisabeth; Jensen, Nathan; Chelanga, Philemon

Despite the importance of pastoralism in many East African communities, there is a dearth of research in the region on how multi-season droughts affect pastoralists. Using a panel dataset of 1064 pastoralists surveyed over 6 years in Kenya, we compare how two successive drought events in 2009 and 2011 affected households’ animal holdings, decision-making, livelihoods, and long-term recovery. Both droughts were associated with reduced household income from livestock and increased expenditure on water, and households took an average of 3–4 years to replenish their herd to its pre-drought size. But, we find that the 2011 drought was significantly worse for households in terms of livestock losses, despite the two events appearing comparable on standard biophysical drought indices over Marsabit County. Importantly, we show that the two successive droughts had compounding effects - greater proportional losses in 2009 led to longer herd recovery times after 2011. We also find that restocking offsets this effect, suggesting that the households most vulnerable to successive droughts are those which lack the financial or social means to replenish their herd. Our findings have implications for how shocks relate to welfare among pastoralists, highlighting the importance for humanitarian organizations to consider compounding risks over a multiyear timescale.


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Also Published In

Journal of Arid Environments
Elsevier BV

More About This Work

Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Published Here
March 13, 2024

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