Climate change and conflict

Lessons from community conservancies in northern Kenya

The devastating drought that affected large areas of Kenya in 2009 and the upsurge in inter-community violence in the north of the country highlighted an apparent connection between climate change and conflict. However, the evidence-base for this connection is limited and it is therefore imperative to analyse how these factors interact in reality rather than to make assumptions.

This report is based on the findings of research carried out in two community wildlife conservancies in northern Kenya in 2009. It illustrates how climate change is affecting the distribution and prevalence of natural resources in Kenya but makes clear that this is not the only factor contributing to resource scarcity.

It emphasises that competition for natural resources is a key driver of conflict, but also that it interacts with a range of other factors, and that violence is not inevitable. The research finds that local governance mechanisms, especially natural resource management, are crucial in determining whether competition over scarce resources will turn into violent conflict.

Based on the research findings, the report makes a series of practical policy recommendations targeted at relevant Kenyan Government Ministries and other stakeholders. The recommendations focus on conflict-sensitising Kenya’s climate change response strategy, as well as related policies concerned with natural resource management, peacebuilding and security.