University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Political Ecology Group meetings > Changing Landscapes and Lifestyles: Adapting and Building Resilience to Droughts in Turkana, North-West Kenya (1963—2013)

Changing Landscapes and Lifestyles: Adapting and Building Resilience to Droughts in Turkana, North-West Kenya (1963—2013)

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  • UserGregory Akall, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Geography
  • ClockTuesday 14 May 2013, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseSeminar Room.

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Abstract: Drought has long disrupted lives and livelihoods in Turkana, Kenya. As climate change creates new environmental uncertainties across the world, there are new fears that droughts and other extreme weather events will disrupt lives and livelihoods further. In dryland regions like Turkana, there has been an emergence of new activities to help communities become more resilient, especially to drought.

This research will investigate the perspectives of developers and Turkana on the ‘problems’ facing lives and livelihoods, which shape the nature of the interventions that are implemented. Where this research is distinct is that it will examine the current views and developments in their historical context. The research examines changing attitudes to the ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ of adapting to drought, and how this has changed—if at all—over a period of 50 years, particularly given the new challenge of climate change. The study compares two periods of interventions, 1970-1990 and 2000-2013. The first, 1970—1990, was an era of top-down modernizing activities, where irrigation and settlement of Turkana pastoralists were the preferred development policies (Anderson and Broch-Due, 1999). The results of these initiatives were generally poor: irrigation systems failed to live up to their promise and sedentarization was linked to poverty and malnutrition (Adams, 1992). The second, 2000—2013, represents a new era of development based around ideas of resilience and adaptation. Reports from the region suggest that, in practice, many of the new interventions on the ground are remarkably similar to those that went before. For example, some ‘new’ initiatives are restoring abandoned irrigation schemes from the 1970-1990 period. (From 1990-2000s, there were few development interventions; organizations working in the region mainly carried out food distributions).

The aim of this research is to see what is new and what is different about the development initiatives across these different periods, and to see how projects that aim to help the Turkana adapt to drought have changed (or not). This will be done by looking at the history, and by doing an analysis of the way the interventions were framed by ‘developers’. In addition, the conceptualizations of the developers will be compared to the views of Turkana people on the problems and the solutions. The research will examine the narratives of environmental change, ‘blueprint’ development, ‘experts’ and ‘indigenous’ knowledges and governmentality. This will help to examine whether present development discourses exhibit similar characteristics of past policies or are new ones and compare these with the perspectives of Turkana themselves.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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