Urgent Action Needed to Help Pastoralists Cope with Impacts of Climate Change

Nairobi, 29 June, 2010, Nairobi - Urgent action is needed to help pastoralists cope with the rising impacts of climate change including strategies by governments to facilitate safe passage across borders in the Horn and East Africa region.

This is among the key recommendations of a new report launched today by the United Nations (UN) and partners, members of the Security in Mobility initiative.

The key findings of the assessment reveal that:

- Climate Change is resulting in unpredictable & extreme weather patterns and influencing mobility patterns amongst Pastoralist communities.

- Insecurity in Pastoralists border regions has increased

- Some local governments facilitate cross-border mobility especially during drought, others need to consider similar strategies

- Mobility (movement) is usually associated with conflict and this risk needs to be recognized and managed down

- Pastoralists are frustrated with current humanitarian aid policies and want sustainable and transformational solutions

Security in Mobility conducted consultative assessments with local communities and their leaders in Kenya's cross border regions between January 2009 and June 2010 in order to gather first hand knowledge on how various economic, social and environmental factors including climate change are impacting on pastoralist lives.

The regions visited include the Maasai, Karamoja and Somali clusters which border Tanzania, Uganda & Sudan, and Somalia & Ethiopia respectively. The initiative also advocates for an integrated approach to respond to humanitarian and development needs in pastoral communities.

Key Findings

The effects of climate change and its impact on pastoral communities are now more conspicuous than ever with evidence pointing to increasing levels of migration and conflict over often scarce resources.

Vulnerability, a lack of preparedness and appropriate, timely and relevant responses to natural disasters has left millions in need of humanitarian assistance. An 80 year old Pastoralist Bote Bora in Isiolo Kenya summed it up: "In my 80 years living as a pastoralist it has never been like this. The rainfall pattern has been unpredictable and there is a migration of pastoralists from this community to the urban centres of Nairobi, Uganda and others. The few animals we have that have survived the drought are plagued by new diseases that we do not know about. Our livestock is dying and we do not know why. We are even afraid to eat some of the livestock as we fear the diseases might be transferred to humans."

In 2009, close to ten million people in the region (including three million pastoralists) were at risk of starvation due to drought. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) Head of Office in Kenya, Jeanine Cooper notes that pastoralists and their livelihoods are under threat due to a combination of factors among them, environmental degradation, resource-based conflicts, changing land tenures, poor governance and restrictive cross-border policies.

Cross-Border issues

Mark Bowden, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, said "it is important to note that all of Kenya's border regions from the Karamoja cluster through Marsabit , Moyale, Mandera Wajir until Garrissa suffer from instability coupled with dramatic effects of climate change. Many pastoralists are no longer safe during their migration and stay 'foreign territory' and there is no formal framework to guarantee their security".

He underlined the need for pastoralists to cross administrative and international borders in pursuit of their livelihoods and emphasized that cross-border collaboration was essential in responding to pastoralist issues.

The Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), Hon. Beatrice Kiraso lauded the joint initiative launched today for the comparative advantage each agency in SIM has brought to the agenda. The agencies' mandates cut across humanitarian assistance, displacement and forced migration management, human security research and environmental protection. Cooperation is important towards addressing this complex problem that cuts across various," Hon. Kiraso commented.

Call to Action

The UN and its partners acknowledge that natural hazards alone do not cause disasters but the combination of factors - climate change, inappropriate policies and lack of basic services and infrastructure - turn the hazards into major emergencies.

Security in Mobility (SiM) is calling on regional governments to develop a policy that facilitates safe movement of pastoralists within their countries and across borders. The Security in Mobility Approach for intervention calls for response to pastoralist issues through a joined-up approach that that captures provision of humanitarian assistance; provision of basic services such as water and sanitation; facilitated migration and comprehensive security initiatives.

The launch of the key findings and SiM approach was attended by more than 100 participants from Kenya and around the region, among them pastoralist community leaders, senior government representatives, members of the diplomatic corps, NGO members and various UN agency representatives. The initiative is comprised of four agencies: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

For More Information Please Contact:

Thandie Mwape, Humanitarian Affairs Officer, OCHA Kenya, Tel:+254(0)728601291Email:; Or; Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson; Tel: +254 (0)73363275, Email: