Including pastoralists’ voices in formulating climate-related policies in Kenya (Story of Change)


The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) leads the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), under the DGIS strategic framework.

V4CP is working with 51 locally-based civil society organisations (CSOs) around the world to bridge the gap between the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their implementation within society, especially amongst low-income and marginalised communities. It does so by strengthening the capacity of CSOs to influence stakeholders and decision-makers with solid and contextualised evidence in order to get the interests of communities embedded into government and business policies and practices.

This story illustrates how the CSOs worked with the national and local government in Kenya to ensure that the voices of pastoral communities are included in the review of one of Kenya’s key climate change policies, the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP). Their close collaboration with the government enabled the CSOs to take the lead in organising several participatory forums at county level, which ensured that the priorities of these vulnerable communities were included in the strategic objectives of the second NCCAP.

Climate change and pastoralists

Pastoralism is a livelihood that supports over 10 million people in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands, contributing to more than 7% of Kenya’s GDP and providing over 75% of the meat consumed nationally. The mobility of pastoralists, which allows them to adapt effectively to variability in pasture and water resources, is increasingly under threat. The growing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, especially droughts, compromises their ability to cope with - and recover from - shocks, and this could lead to an increase in poverty and vulnerability. Other external pressures, including the privatisation of resources and the fragmentation of grazing lands, further compromises the traditional pastoral livelihood and adaptation strategies.

Despite their significant contribution to the economy, pastoralists are rarely consulted in the development of policies and regulations that affect their way of living, and that can strengthen their resilience in the face of climate change. This is why, in 2016, the V4CP started working with three local civil society organisations (CSOs) - the Kenya Livestock Marketing Council (KLMC), Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and the Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE) - to ensure that the concerns of pastoralists are included in both national and local policies.

Voice for change: Kariankei Loware, pastoralist in Kajiado county

Kariankei Loware (43) looks out over the crowd of people and livestock gathered in the Bissil livestock market in Kajiado County, 110 km south of Nairobi. He has been a pastoralist in this semi-arid country all his life. Every Friday, he joins 300 other pastoralists, livestock buyers and traders, here to trade. Today, he hopes to sell two of his cows to the dealers.

Kariankei has seen many changes affecting his way of living over the years. This includes the increased encroachment on pastoral rangelands, shrinking grazing space and new administrative boundaries, all of which have restricted the movement of pastoralists in search of water and pasture. With climate change putting further pressure on these scarce resources, Kairankei is keen to see action by the government – especially action that recognises the unique characteristics of the pastoral way of life.


Pastoralists trading at the Bissil livestock market in Kajiado county


Strengthening CSOs capacities to respond to climate change

In 2016, V4CP started to train the CSOs on the developments in climate change polices and processes at the international and national level, as well as their interlinkages. This knowledge enabled the CSOs to shape their advocacy priorities, to embed and prioritise advocacy work within their organisations, and to increase their credibility. V4CP’s capacity strengthening support, which includes advocacy and communication skills, as well as leadership and organisational sustainability, also contributed to more effective advocacy as well as the long-term strength of the organisations.

“The training and the capacity building of the CSOs was important to enable the organisations to be effective champions of

climate change issues, equipping them with knowledge and enhancing their technical capacity necessary to shape policies

that are addressing the real issues of pastoralists.” - Mary Njuguna, V4CP Programme Manager Kenya.

In addition, the CSOs carried out a review of important policy documents, which revealed that many policies inadequately address pastoral issues or have been shaped by fundamental misunderstandings of the workings of pastoral systems. Evidence provided by IFPRI, on the role of the pastoralists’ traditional institutions in climate change resilience, equipped the CSOs with sound research to further underpin their advocacy messages.

A key policy identified by the CSOs was the NCCAP, which sets out climate change adaptation and mitigation actions across all sectors of the economy. This plan was soon to be revised at the end of its five-year implementation cycle, which created an opportunity for the CSOs to ensure that it included truly inclusive and effective policies for pastoralists, and that it supported those most vulnerable to climate change.

Connecting to key policy makers

Their thorough knowledge on climate change, along with their strengthened advocacy skills obtained through V4CP, has enabled the CSOs to expand their network and to become credible partners for key actors at both national level and in several dryland counties. This put the CSOs in a position to address issues of inclusiveness in the NCCAP with the Climate Change Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, who appointed the CSOs to become members of the taskforce that is responsible for reviewing the Plan.

While the review of the NCCAP should be a participatory and inclusive process that considers inputs from all stakeholders, the CSOs noticed that pastoralists - as well as other marginalised communities - were not engaged in it. With support of the taskforce, the CSOs brought this to the attention of the directorate, emphasising the importance of including vulnerable communities in the review process in order to ensure effective adaptation actions. The directorate determined that the marginalised communities needed to be engaged in the NCCAP review and urgently agreed that PACJA and CEMIRIDE should spearhead this process of inclusion.

“When you talk about participation and yet work outside of the traditional and local grassroots institutions, then you wil

l have left out the whole community.”   - Mr. Nyang’ori Ohenjo, a programme adviser at CEMIRIDE.

Participatory forums to include the voice of pastoral communities

In collaboration with local CSOs, county governments and national government agencies, PACJA and CEMIRIDE organised community and county forums in Kajiado, Marsabit and Isiolo counties. These forums included pastoral communities, youth and, more importantly, women - a group that is not usually represented in policy and decision-making processes. Within pastoralist communities, there is no gender disparity regarding access to communal natural resources, however the control of these resources is determined by local customs, which are dominated by men.

Facilitated by PACJA and CEMIRIDE, the forums provided a space for the voices of female leaders in the community and grassroots organisations to be heard and included in defining priorities for the revised NCCAP. Their inclusion was particularly important because their knowledge of the environment is crucial for contributing to climate change adaptation strategies. Pastoralist women who become community leaders have demonstrated that access to the necessary skills, experience and knowledge can help build the resilience of their communities.

“Most policies are formulated by men. These policies are silent about the vulnerabilities of women and climate hazards.  Ignoring the realities and the needs of half of this society undermines the viability and effectiveness of any response”

- Juliana Rono, Chairperson of the Nasaru Women Group Kajiado


Women selling milk, cream and ghee in the market.


At the consultation forums, key priorities that will enhance pastoralists’ adaptive capacity were identified, such as: increasing structural representation and meaningful engagement in the taskforce and policy review; improving access to livestock insurance; ensuring the recognition and implementation of pastoral land rights and tenure; providing capacity strengthening for pastoralists on climate change adaptation and mitigation; providing  sufficient and well-managed markets for pastoralists to sell their livestock; enhancing water availability; and the construction of county feedlots.

Driving change

The listed issues and priorities were included in the strategic objectives of the second NCCAP 2018-2022, as confirmed by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry:

“With this inclusive action plan, we hope that we can kick-start the implementation by catalysing private sector  innovation and investment; strengthening climate change governance and delivering climate resilient development  to our people – especially the most vulnerable.”

- Mr Ali N. Ismael CBS, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry

Through the stakeholder forums and workshops at county level, the CSOs achieved significant progress in closing the knowledge gap among policy makers regarding pastoralism, as well as the dynamics of dryland ecosystems. This has also improved the political will of the County Steering Committees to address climate change. Kajiado, Isiolo and Marsabit counties have expressed their commitment to start the process of formulating policies at county level to support pastoralists.

Mr Kwese Mapena, a member of the National Steering Committee for Climate Change from Kajiado, looks back at the good working relationships that the CSOs have built with the county government:

“We recognise the need of involving community voices in the development of policies at county and national level.  The collaboration between civil society actors and policy-makers has proven to be an effective way to shape sound  and well-informed, inclusive policies”

- Mr. Kwese Mapena, National Steering Committee for Climate Change, Kajiado representative.


Looking forward

Now that the CSOs have been able to ensure the integration of pastoralists’ priorities in policy documents, their attention will shift towards the effective implementation of these policies at national and county level.

Kajiado county is clearly struggling to adjust to the rising temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns and other consequences of climate change. Yet pastoralists like Loware at Bissil livestock market, whose livelihood is increasingly under threat, can feel positive about the new climate change policies because they now adequately address the struggles of the pastoral way of life.