Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
Research article
03 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 03 Nov 2015

The nexus of oil, conflict, and climate change vulnerability of pastoral communities in northwest Kenya

J. Schilling, R. Locham, T. Weinzierl, J. Vivekananda, and J. Scheffran

Abstract. Turkana, in northwest Kenya, is the country's poorest and least developed county. Pastoralism in Turkana is well adapted to the harsh climatic conditions, but an increase in drought frequency associated with global climate change and intensifying violent conflicts between pastoral groups poses significant challenges for local communities. The conflicts are especially violent in the border region between the Turkana and the Pokot communities. In this very region significant oil reserves have recently been found. The first aim of this paper is to analyse how the oil exploration affects the communities' vulnerability to climate change. Secondly, the paper explores the risk of the oil explorations creating new conflicts or aggravating existing ones. The primary method of the study is qualitative field research supplemented with a geo-spatial analysis of conflict data. The field research was conducted in October 2013 and April 2014 in three villages with different levels of engagement with the oil exploration. At the time of the research, oil exploration was expected close to Lokwamosing, while it had recently started in the vicinity of Lopii and had been ongoing for a longer time close to Nakukulas. The findings suggest that the oil exploration increases the community's vulnerability to climate change. Further, unmet community expectations for water, employment and development pose a significant risk for violent conflict between local communities and the operating oil company. Intercommunal conflict over water and land could increase as well.

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Short summary
This article first discusses the effects of oil exploration on the vulnerability of pastoral communities to climate change. The effects are found to be ambivalent, but mostly aggravating. Second, the article explores the (potential) effects of oil exploration on local conflict dynamics. Findings suggest a risk of escalating company-community conflicts. These conflicts are mostly driven by unfulfilled community expectations for employment, water and development.
Final-revised paper