When Deserts Flood: Risk Management and Climatic Processes Among East African Pastoralists

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Climate Research

Publication Date



Special Issue on Anthropological Perspectives and Policy Implications of Climate Change Research


Pastoral populations of East Africa confront multiple risks associated with drought, food shortages and insecurity. In this and region, drought is a 'normal' event and herders pursue strategies of mobility, livestock loaning and diversification to combat its effects. What is not a norm are prolonged floods when precipitation cycles become inverted and dry season rainfall greatly exceeds the average amount for a year. This article examines the events and responses to 'El Nino' in the range-land areas of northern Kenya and southern Somalia during 1997/98. It suggests that these global climatic episodes need to be assessed against local factors and processes, which strongly shape their impacts on human populations.

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