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Climate change, violent conflict and local institutions in Kenya’s drylands


  • Wario R Adano

    (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale)

  • Ton Dietz

    (African Studies Centre, Leiden)

  • Karen Witsenburg

    (Both ENDS, Amsterdam & Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale)

  • Fred Zaal

    (Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam)


Many regions that are endowed with scarce natural resources such as arable land and water, and which are remote from a central government, suffer from violence and ethnic strife. A number of studies have looked at the convergence of economic, political and ecological marginality in several African countries. However, there is limited empirical study on the role of violence in pastoral livelihoods across ecological and geographical locations. Yet, case studies focusing on livelihood and poverty issues could inform us about violent behaviour as collective action or as individual decisions, and to what extent such decisions are informed or explained by specific climatic conditions. Several case studies point out that violence is indeed an enacted behaviour, rooted in culture and an accepted form of interaction. This article critically discusses the relevance of geographical and climatic parameters in explaining the connection between poverty and violent conflicts in Kenya’s pastoral areas. These issues are considered vis-à -vis the role institutional arrangements play in preventing violent conflict over natural resources from occurring or getting out of hand. The article uses long-term historical data, archival information and a number of fieldwork sources. The results indicate that the context of violence does not deny its agency in explanation of conflicts, but the institutional set-up may ultimately explain the occurrence of the resource curse.

Suggested Citation

  • Wario R Adano & Ton Dietz & Karen Witsenburg & Fred Zaal, 2012. "Climate change, violent conflict and local institutions in Kenya’s drylands," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(1), pages 65-80, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:1:p:65-80

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    Cited by:

    1. Sarsons, Heather, 2015. "Rainfall and conflict: A cautionary tale," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 62-72.
    2. Austin L. Wright, 2016. "Economic Shocks and Rebel," HiCN Working Papers 232, Households in Conflict Network.
    3. Papaioannou, Kostadis J. & de Haas, Michiel, 2017. "Weather Shocks and Agricultural Commercialization in Colonial Tropical Africa: Did Cash Crops Alleviate Social Distress?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 346-365.
    4. Kostadis J. Papaioannou & Michiel de Haas, 2015. "Climate shocks, cash crops and resilience: Evidence from colonial tropical Africa," Working Papers 0076, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    5. François Gemenne & Jon Barnett & W. Adger & Geoffrey Dabelko, 2014. "Climate and security: evidence, emerging risks, and a new agenda," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 1-9, March.
    6. Hassani Mahmooei, Behrooz & Parris, Brett, 2012. "Why might climate change not cause conflict? an agent-based computational response," MPRA Paper 44918, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Richard Akresh, 2016. "Climate Change, Conflict, and Children," HiCN Working Papers 221, Households in Conflict Network.
    8. Ole Theisen & Nils Gleditsch & Halvard Buhaug, 2013. "Is climate change a driver of armed conflict?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 117(3), pages 613-625, April.
    9. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:6:p:976-:d:100807 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Kibriya, Shahriar & Xu, Zhicheng P. & Zhang, Yu, 2015. "Economic shocks, governance and violence: A subnational level analysis of Africa," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205321, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.


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