Published: April 20, 2023

CamelsA camel train passing along the main street in Isiolo town in July 2022 on the way to non-traditional grazing.
In July 2022, John O’Loughlin (Professor) and Sarah Posner (graduate student) with Terry McCabe (Institute of Behavioral Science) conducted field work in Isiolo, north-central Kenya as part of an extensive study of the effects of climate change on food security and changing livelihood strategies that can alter attitudes towards the use of violence to gain resources.  The study time-frame is coincident with the three-year drought in the Horn of Africa that has now resulted in near-famine conditions for 45 million people.

JohnO and Sarah

Sarah Posner and John O’Loughlin with Terry McCabe (Institute of Behavioral Science) interviewing a government official in the Isiolo office on the drought’s extent and effects on local livelihoods.

Though not planned as an examination of how a devastating drought can upend people’s lives and beliefs, the timing of the four waves of a representative survey of household resources and attendant attitudes allows a determination of the impact of worsening environmental conditions.  An example from the survey data is that the ratio of respondents who ranked food insecurity amongst the top three problems rose from 38% in February 2020 to 82% in April 2022.  This correlates with the rise of those who rated water resources as a top three problem from 12% to 45% in the same period.   

The purpose of the July 2022 fieldwork was to share the survey results with local stakeholders (government officials, NGO’s, etc) and to discuss the findings in light of their local knowledge.  Key results were presented at the National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Geographical Sciences annual meeting in December 2022.  Current plans include preparing a research article on the Isiolo case study and write research proposals to extend the study in comparative work on sites across Kenya’s diverse ecological and livelihood zones. 

Further accounts of the research were reported in CU Boulder Today in May 2022