The killing Desert? Drought, nomadic Traditions and Development Administration with the Turkana

Author Biographies

Patrick Wymeersch, Fac. Psychologie et Pédagogie Université du Burundi Bujumbura

Fac. Psychologie et Pédagogie
Université du Burundi

Dirk Beke, Seminarie Recht van Nieuwe Staten Ghent University


Main Article Content

Patrick Wymeersch (Fac. Psychologie et Pédagogie Université du Burundi Bujumbura)

Dirk Beke (Seminarie Recht van Nieuwe Staten Ghent University)

Published Sep 28, 1987


The Turkana are nomadic pastoralists who live in the desert regions of northwestern Kenya. The majority of the Turkana practice no agriculture nor fishing and live exclusively from the products of their livestock (milk, blood and meat). They keep multiple species herds (cattle, camels, goats, sheep and donkeys) in order to buffer the variations in the quality and distribution of vegetal resources and water requirements. The Turkana were one of many affected by several droughts. Although the famine which resulted from the sharp drop in food production was dramatized by international press, insecurity of food availability is characteristic of pastoral production systems. One technique used by the Turkana to exploit an environment where the availability of food is inconsistent, sparse and scattered, is the management of herds composed by many species which can be divided in the dry season into different herds. The second technique used to manage livestock is mobility and raiding cattle from neighbouring ethnic groups. In times of stress the Turkana utilize a system of social ties, obligations and rights which they build up over a lifetime. Important social relationships are reconfirmed periodically via the exchange of livestock between friends. The not integrated new projects in Turkana land could lead to destruction of the ecology, and to a breakdown of the pastoral system and of the system of social ties which has enabled generations of Turkana to cope with the stresses imposed by living in a harsh and unpredictable environment.

KEYWORDS : development administration, drought, Kenya, nomads, traditional pastoralism, Turkana. 

Article Sidebar