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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

As water falls short, conflict between herders and farmers sharpens

By Wesley Langat
KIBOYA, Kenya - It is a hot, windy afternoon in Kiboya village. Dusty leaves swirl around William Ekidor, his wife Martha and their two sons as they sit under an acacia tree by the Kajunge dam, queuing with their animals for water.
Ekidor and his family, pastoralists who herd 140 cattle, sheep and goats for a living, have travelled over 10 kilometres (6 miles) to the dam, the only remaining water source in the area, and a major source of conflict in the lowland basin of Laikipia County.
"About three years ago, there was plenty of pasture and water," Ekidor explains. "Now seasons have become very unpredictable, disrupting our planning."
Longer dry seasons and uncertain rains have put pressure on pastoralists who normally migrate with their livestock to Olmoran ward, where Kiboya is located, during the dry season in search of pasture and water.
At the same time, growth in farming in the area has led to increased demand for water for crops and livestock by farmers.
Kiboya, about 250km (150 miles) from Nairobi, Kenya's capital, is inhabited by farmers who live mainly in higher altitude areas, while pastoralists tend to keep to the lower areas.
A herder grazes his cattle in a dry maize field in Laikipia, Kenya.TRF/Wesley Langat
But water shortages are now forcing the herders to move upstream, leading to clashes when their animals graze on farmers' land. It is a pattern that is playing out in other parts of Laikipia County too.
Kenya ranks high in vulnerability to climate change and low in readiness to deal with it, according to the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index in 2014.
Laws as well as climate shifts play a role in conflict over resources.
Most land in Laikipia was until recently owned communally by pastoralists and administered by county councils, but the government sold 50 percent of it to ranchers in 2012, with the rest occupied by small-scale farmers.
The change in land rights has contributed to a tussle for water between farmers and the pastoralists, who feel deprived of land to graze their herds. They have the right to graze in the area, but it is subject to negotiation with landowners.
"We can't let our animals die, yet there are plenty of pastures and water in these farms," said Ekidor. "When hungry, the cows leave the manyattas (the pastoralists' homesteads) in the middle of the night. We find them in other people's farms in the morning."
With little pasture, difficult access to water, and long distances to travel - sometimes across farmers' land to reach grass or water - herder's work becoming more labour-intensive.

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