Conflict associated with natural environmental resources have in the recent past been a characteristic of life in most arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya. In these regions of Kenya, climate change has led to an exacerbation of extreme weather conditions. While on one hand, dangerous rainfalls have led to devastating impacts on populations, on the other hand frequent and prolonged droughts have led to reduced water levels and the resultant depletion of pastures. This has further led to food insecurity often leading to severe famine in a region where the population depends on pastoralism and agro-pastoralism as the means of livelihood. In worse situations, famine has caused the death of people and livestock, increased the number of malnourished children and hindered development due to lack of adequate human resources. All these challenges contribute to complex conflicts with major natural resource-based components compounded by institutional neglect, structural violence and visionary leadership grounded in the common good and equality for all citizens.
Shalom’s (SCCRR) intervention in various project areas is based on its unremitting commitment in working towards transforming the root causes of conflict. Two examples where SCCRR work are on the border between the Pokot and Turkana communities in northwestern Kenya and in Wenje in the east of Kenya with the Pokomo, Oromo and Wardey communities where conflicts often erupt due to competition for natural resources.
On the border between the Turkana and Pokot communities, pastoralism is at the center of their socio-economic livelihood. The area’s tropical climate is also ideal for the thriving of acacia trees, neem trees and prosopius julifora (mathenge). The area is rich in pasture and water which are vital for their animal’s survival. The persistent perennial resource based conflicts in these regions have caused tremendous harm underpinning the need for the people to be guided on how to manage their resources. Mrs. Angelica Lochipo, a woman leader in Kainuk emphasizes that: ‘‘Grass, water, land and livestock are the major natural resources which have been causing conflict between us and our neighbouring communities. This problem has not only increased the level of enmity between us, it has also resulted in mutual distrust between the ethnic communities living in the area, so we are very happy that Shalom has come to help us acquire the skills which will enable us manage natural resource based conflicts in our area.’’ The inter-ethnic conflicts are often fueled by traditional customs and the proliferation of arms leading to indiscriminate killings, loss of property and displacement of people in the region.
On the other hand, Wenje in Kinakomba Ward, Tana River County is generally a dry (semi-arid) region and hence prone to drought and flooding due to the erratic rainfall patterns which pounds the area twice in a year. There are three communities mainly inhabiting the area: the Pokomo, Oromo and Wardey. The Pokomo are mainly farmers while the Oromo and Wardey are pastoralists. The vast region’s natural resources are water, grass, forests, wildlife, fossil fuel, oil, gold and diamonds. The recurring disputes and conflicts in Wenje are centered on land, water, pasture and wildlife. The pastoralists (Oromo & Wardey) and the farmers (Pokomo) clash over access to and use of water and pasture along River Tana. The pastoralists are usually accused of not respecting the farmlands and the identified path ways (locally known as Malkas) to the river; they also destroy people’s fences and move boundaries; and they also do not heed to the grazing agreements and patterns. The absence of water use and management plans, non-formal land ownership structures, inadequate arable land during drought and non-structural agreements on distinctive lands for farming and grazing also causes friction among them. Human- wildlife conflict is also a phenomena that causes a lot of agitation and tension between the residents and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers. The residents recognize the value of the wildlife but disapprove KWS’s failure to acknowledge and compensate them when the animals destroy their crops, disrespect human settlements and delayed compensation when a resident is attacked and killed by the wild animals.
The above descriptions of these regions, not only reiterates the need for identifying the core problems with regards to the natural resources but also underscores the need for proper knowledge and skills in Natural Resource Management. Based on the background above, Shalom’s involvement in the SPECIFIC and SPECIALISED management of natural resource based conflicts is a new aspect of the program whose planning began in 2017 and implementation in January 2018. The program has been designed to support the communities understanding of the root causes of Natural Resource based conflicts through conducting in-depth conflict analyses in the target areas. As a starting point to the intervention in Turkana/West Pokot borderline for instance, Shalom conducted a detailed conflict analysis between March and June 2017. This analysis has since helped to map out the existing natural resources associated with intra and inter-ethnic conflict, the root causes of these conflicts and a set of interventions which can be used in the management of these conflicts. The methodology of intervention is designed in a way that conflict analysis is followed by a series of training on the management of natural resource based conflicts which is offered to influential community leaders. The training is accompanied by a carefully drawn action plan which elaborates the implementation framework of the following activities:
- Intra and inter-community negotiation and mediation led by the trained community leaders with an aim of initiating agreements on natural resource management
- Development of local based structures for intervening in natural resource based conflicts
- Development of plans for access and use of the existing natural resources
- Community engagement with government institutions and other middle level and top level institutions to INSPIRE and FACILITATE the implementation of natural resource management plans and community agreements on natural resource management
The action plans have been drawn in 5 project areas (Kainuk and Loreng’ekipi in Turkana County, Turkwel Gorge and Amakuriat in West Pokot County and Wenje in Tana River County). An elaborate community driven implementation framework has been put in place and the project area teams together with the Monitoring and Evaluation team are in close collaboration with the implementing communities to ensure that there is a clear response to the natural resource management challenges and is geared towards the realization of the predetermined project outputs and outcomes.
In implementing this initiative of management of natural resource based conflicts, Shalom remains focused in ensuring that target communities have increased awareness of their natural resources and rights. Furthermore, Shalom is keen on ensuring that this project helps communities to constantly monitor and initiate timely action against present and emerging threats to their natural resource rights. Finally, SCCRR is attentive to ensuring that the communities are initiating deliberate actions to initiate dialogue and actively take part in decision-making processes ensuring that there is equity in access to the existing natural resources. Shalom remains highly committed to this course and we remain hopeful that with communities taking center stage in the management of natural resource based conflicts the existing natural resources will never be a curse to the communities in Kenya.
Godfrey Okoth, M.A., B.A.; Program Manager
Judith Akedi, M.A., B.A.; Head of Department, Training
Jude Ilo, M.A., B.A.; Program Assistant
Esther Kibe, M.A., B.A.;Head of Department, Communication