Improving pastoralists’ livelihood strategies through good governance: The case of Turkana County, North-West Kenya
Imana, Chris Aletia
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Poor governance is a primary contributor to most of the problems which are bedevilling Africa today. In the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya, poor governance systems have undermined community-based institutions and resulted in poverty, the weakening of social structures and a lack of social capital development. Turkana County in particular, continues to experience these challenges that have impeded significant development. This study draws on the experiences of pastoralists living in the Turkana County of North-West Kenya, an area with a long history of food and social insecurity. Although the expectation of good governance leading to improved livelihoods in Turkana is one that could be readily anticipated, it has actually not been well foreseen. The aim of this study is to contribute to filling this gap. The overarching purpose of the study is therefore to provide an in-depth description of the improvement of Turkana pastoralists’ livelihood strategies from the perspective of good governance and, in doing so, to explore and explain other livelihood options that can be relied upon to alleviate poverty. The study was conducted between June and November 2011 in six constituencies of Turkana County (Loima, Turkana Central, Turkana North, Turkana West, Turkana East and Turkana South). The study utilized a questionnaire involving 384 respondents who provided information on livelihood strategies, governance and existing institutions. A focused group discussion (FGD) guide, targeting six pastoralist groups, was aimed at collecting information on variables such as: income levels, livelihood strategies, employment, education levels, household sizes, and so forth. An observation guide was used as an inventory of households and the livelihoods of these communities. Twenty four checklists were used to record in-depth interviews and to collect information on governance, livelihoods, rules and regulations of humanitarian organisations operating in the County, as well as the roles of various agencies and government representatives in the County. Since the majority of respondents indicated that they spent much time on animal production, the study determined that Turkana pastoralists greatly depend on livestock and the products of livestock. There was also a direct proportionality between the time spent on livestock production and the number of people willing to engage in animal production. With regard to alternative livelihoods, the majority of respondents prefer keeping livestock rather than shifting to any other means of livelihood. The findings further indicated that goats, followed by sheep, were found to be the most reared. A high percentage of livestock earnings was utilized for purchasing food for household consumption. It was also evident that fathers of households made the significant decisions regarding the utilisation of livestock. In Turkana County, livestock rearing responsibilities were shared amongst the members of the household. World Vision, Oxfam, Merlin and VSF-B emerged as agencies that made significant contributions to the livelihood strategies of the Turkana people. From the results generated, food aid (relief food) was found to be the main initiative, followed by animal drugs and conflict resolution. The majority of respondents agreed that policies on boreholes existed. Respondents cited the principles of the rule of law and political participation as the most practised by the government, while accountability and transparency were least mentioned. When asked about the challenges facing pastoralists, respondents, development partners and government officials were aware of the challenges that faced livestock keepers. Lack of water and pasture for livestock emerged as the most significant constraints to the keeping of livestock. The distance that the people have to walk in search of water, which increases when drought occurs, was also cited as a worrying challenge. Diseases and insecurity were other significant challenges mentioned. Finally, the study concluded that pastoralists have continued to face challenges and limited livelihood options as a result of poor governance and a lack of attention from both the county and national governments. It is hoped that this study will contribute to the understanding and practice of the principles of good governance, and that this will ultimately lead to diversified livelihood strategies and poverty reduction among Turkana pastoralists.
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