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No one can kill the drought: Understanding complexity in the relationship between drought and conflict amongst pastoralists in northern Kenya

HANDLEY, CARLA,SUZANNE (2012) No one can kill the drought: Understanding complexity in the relationship between drought and conflict amongst pastoralists in northern Kenya. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Climate-induced resource scarcity is currently cited as one of the most important drivers of human conflict, particularly in the developing world. It is predicted that in the coming years, rising global temperatures may increase aridity in a number of resource-poor regions, precipitating violence, as subsistence populations struggle to maintain livelihoods. East African pastoral communities have long adapted to unpredictable, adverse climatic conditions by modifying behaviours according to their environmental circumstance. A growing concern, however, is whether pastoralists can adapt to prolonged periods of drought, reduced rangeland productivity, and increased livelihood insecurity. A number of studies have argued that pastoralists may rely on violent livestock raids in order to recoup herd losses incurred during drought periods. This thesis investigates the apparent relationship between drought-induced resource scarcity and inter-ethnic conflict amongst three pastoral populations in northern Kenya. Through the analysis of ethnographic data and quantitative applications, this study examines the nature of the relationship between periods of increased drought and escalations in conflict episodes, testing if there is, indeed, a direct relationship between these two phenomena. Furthermore, it builds on the complexity of this relationship by identifying a number of intermediary causal and social effects that may interact and influence the nature of the resource scarcity – conflict relationship. Game theory and socio-ecological resilience models are used as explanatory frameworks, as a way of making sense of these ‘chaotic’ interactions. Ultimately, this thesis presents new theoretical perspectives in understanding resource-based conflicts, tests the adaptive ‘limits’ of subsistence populations, and examines the impact that conflict has on the resilience of pastoral communities.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:resource conflict, East African pastoralists, drought, resilience, game theory, raiding
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:21 May 2013 10:10

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