Africa / Climate Change / East Africa / ILRI / Kenya / NRM / Pastoralism / Wildlife / WLE

Colorado, Kenyan and ILRI researchers team up to help Maasai herders adapt to climate change

Red sky over Maasai rangeland

Red sky over Maasai rangeland (photo credit: ILRI).

From a Colorado State University press release yesterday (27 October 2010) comes the following news.

Researchers from Colorado, Kenya and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya are launching a project that will ultimately help Maasai livestock herders in Kenya adapt to impacts from climate change.

The project, ‘Pastoral transformations to resilient futures: Understanding climate from the ground up,’ is led by Kathleen Galvin, a professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Anthropology and senior research scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. Robin Reid, director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation in the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, and a former leader of pastoral research at ILRI is a member of the project team.

The Kenyan collaborators include Jesse Njoka, professor at the University of Nairobi, Kenya; David Nkedianye, a former doctoral student at ILRI who now directs ‘Reto o Reto’, a non-governmental organization in Kenya that started as a research project conducted jointly by ILRI and Maasai communities in East Africa; and Philip Thornton, a theme leader and senior scientist with the Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security at ILRI.

These collaborators will help Maasai pastoralists to create strategies for sustaining livestock production based on an understanding of the most important climate and social changes affecting livestock management and the cultural, socio-economic and physical impediments to climate change adaptation. ‘If we can understand pastoral perceptions of climate and other changes and their effects on livestock management, the environment and the economy, we can help communities develop a vision for their future that includes solutions to these problems and allows for sustainable livestock production,’ Galvin said.

The future of traditional mobile livestock herding in Kenya is under attack from a number of fronts. Increasingly, land is fragmented by human settlements, roads, crop production, wildlife preserves and land grabs. This patchwork of land ownership and management makes it difficult for herders to access seasonal forage and water resources they need to maintain their herds, often their main source of livelihood. This situation will only be further compounded by climate change, which will shrink vital resources, further limiting access and increasing competition and conflict.

‘This project is about helping people help themselves,’ Galvin said. ‘We do not have the answers. Rather, we hope to give them the information and resources they need to move further along in thinking about their future.’

This project is funded through the Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change Collaborative Research Support Program, established in May 2010 through a US$15 million grant from the US Agency for International Development awarded to Colorado State University’s Animal Population Health Institute and the university’s Institute for Livestock and the Environment. The goal of the program is to pursue interdisciplinary research, education and outreach in semi-arid regions to better the lives and livelihoods of small-scale livestock producers by developing strategies to help them cope with the impacts of climate change.

For more information, visit Colorado State University’s Livestock-Climate Change Collaborative Research Support Program.

One thought on “Colorado, Kenyan and ILRI researchers team up to help Maasai herders adapt to climate change

  1. Am interested in this project. Am trying to look at traditional coping mechanisms towards climate change. How can I be involved?


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