In northern Kenya, the cycle of droughts is intensifying, with dramatic consequences for pastoral populations, among the first victims of climate change in Kenya.

In the arid plains of Isiolo County, the short rainy season is long overdue. Around Merti, a town 500 kilometers north of Nairobi, the local economy is mainly based on raising and selling milk from cows and goats. For its population, predominantly Borana – a subgroup of the Oromo ethnic group found in neighboring Ethiopia – this period of intense drought severely impacted its pastoral activity, making grazing areas scarce and access to water more and more uncertain. Goats and cows no longer give milk, and the price of livestock keeps falling, both because of the low meat content and the risk associated with buying livestock in times of drought. The scarcity of grazing places is also a source of increased tensions between semi-nomadic peoples, for whom the few grazing places are an oasis in the middle of the desert.

Paradoxically, in addition to the drought, the intense rains in the watershed of the Ewaso Ng’iro river raise fears that its bed will overflow and cause flooding. This unpredictable element is a further threat to pastoralists living near the shores of one of the rare – often dry – inlets that cross the arid plains of northern Kenya.

Isiolo, the capital of the province of the same name, does not know the drought. Located a few dozen kilometers north of Mount Kenya, this town, with a semi-arid climate, is a crossroads where breeders and buyers trade. From here, milk and livestock from remote areas of the region are sent to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Since the onset of the drought, the milk production of camels in the city center dairy has halved, while the price of cattle, which are traded every Monday and Friday at the market, has also dropped drastically. Thus, affecting the viability of the pastoral sector as a whole.

In this remote region of Kenya, the intensification of droughts due to climate change provides a local overview of its direct and indirect consequences for a population with ancestral practices and a very limited carbon footprint.