Benoit Hazard, Christine Adongo, Adano Wario, Martin Ledant
Solidarités/ Internatinal, 2012
The main focus of this study is the North Horr area, which is located in northern Marsabit District. The district covers a total area of 69,340 km2 (Adano and Witsenburg, 2004). It is generally a semi!arid climate with poor soil, except for in a few high altitude areas. Rainfall is usually erratic, unreliable, and highly variable in time and space. This area averages between 800 mm and 1000 mm of rain annually in the highlands, and between 200 mm and 250 mm in the lowlands. The northern Marsabit area, including North Horr, borders Ethiopia to the north, Lake Turkana to the northwest, and Laisamis to the south. There are no permanent rivers in the entire district, and hand dug shallow wells are important sources of water. The majority of the population in the district practice pastoralism, making use of the communally shared rangeland resources, especially water, pasture, and vegetation.
North Horr lies in agro-ecological zone VI– a zone considered a semi!desert and the driest part of Kenya. The area is close to the Chalbi desert (old lake beds), which is ecologically sensitive to changes in environmental conditions. The area is covered with dwarf bushland and Acacia tortilis woodland is the major vegetation type. The vegetation has been negatively impacted upon as formerly mobile households permanently settle around water sources, causing local degradation of vegetation. The North Horr area is generally a livestock-based economy, predominantly involving the rearing of camel, small stock (goats and sheep), cattle, and some donkeys. These livestock types provide, either directly or indirectly, the main sustenance for the pastoral groups in the region. The region is a highly vulnerable environment because of interϋannual and interϋseasonal fluctuations in rainfall. Partly in response to rainfall fluctuations, herd splitting, interϋhousehold livestock exchange, and regular migrations are defining characteristics of the pastoralists in the region. Social relations and inter!personal networks are highly valued because of unreliable climatic conditions, high livelihood vulnerability, and the lack of formal insurance. Northern Marsabit District (including the North Horr area) is mainly inhabited by the Gabra (majority), Dassanetch, and the El Molo (predominantly a fishing community). These groups are no longer entirely dependent on livestock for their livelihood needs. Some families have settled and others continue to settle because of being dropped out of the mainstream pastoral economy (based on mobility and reliance on livestock) or because of the need to diversify outside of the livestock subsector.
This study gathered rainfall data, population (human and livestock) numbers, and other relevant information to explore trends and implications for livelihood changes in the area. This section examines the notion of “pastoralist livelihoods” through descriptions of the pastoral system in the past and today in North Horr district. It further attempts to investigate and understand the mix of the livelihood options used by the studied populations along with strategies used to cope with risks.