Orma livelihoods in Tana River district, Kenya: a study of constraints, adaptation and innovation
Pattison, James Lee
This study focuses on the constraints, adaptations and innovations in the livelihoods of Orma pastoralists. The fieldwork took place with families around Tiltila, Waldena and Kalalani over a period of 9 months in 2007/08. The position of pastoralist peoples in East Africa is characterised by social, political and economic marginalisation, weak land tenure, and declining per capita livestock holdings, while their shrinking grazing lands are widely regarded to be on the front line of climate change, both in terms of climate impacts and biofuel/agribusiness land pressure. The dearth of good quality data on pastoralist populations and livelihoods is widely cited as one of the fundamental barriers to improving the effectiveness of development support in the drylands. This study seeks to address these knowledge gaps for Orma pastoralists, while contributing to the body of theory on pastoralist livelihood dynamics. Data on the effects of wealth, education and food aid on household mobility were analysed using a theory of asset threshold dynamics. An adapted typology of livelihood strategies was developed to interpret and structure the data. Using child mortality as a proxy for respondent health, the impacts of wealth and mobility status on families’ health were explored. In the context of an almost total lack of data on community redistribution of food aid, both for the Orma and for East African pastoralists more generally, the study provides empirical data on de facto community food aid allocation patterns. The study also examines a controversial large-scale expropriation of land in Tana River (subsidised under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism) which will undermine the capacity of Orma pastoralists and other minority groups, to adapt to increased and more extreme environmental variability. In an environment in which enrolment in formal education is very low (particularly for girls), the study found that community nursery schools represent a relatively recent (and thus far undocumented) innovation organised and funded by groups of parents. The data demonstrates unprecedented levels of female enrolment despite cost constraints faced by least wealthy families. It is therefore suggested that incorporation of the community nursery model into the basic literacy element of the proposed national distance learning strategy, offers significant potential for addressing ‘Education For All’ in Kenya’s drylands.