Like many African countries, Kenya faces critical challenges due to climate change. Droughts in the country have become more frequent and severe in recent years: in the last decade alone, three major droughts rattled the country’s agricultural sector, particularly in livestock production, which accounts for a significant portion of the country’s GDP and exports.
Internal social and political tensions further complicate Kenya’s capacity to cope with and recover from climate shocks, largely fueled by pre- and post-election tensions, weakened administration and traditional governance systems, gaps in national land management regulations, and politicized and ethnicized competition over scarce farmland and natural resources.
Climate-related impacts are unlikely to act as a direct driver of conflict in isolation from other factors. But because they heighten pre-existing stresses, vulnerabilities, and insecurities, climate change becomes a risk multiplier – stretching fragile situations to their breaking point.
“This achievement is critical for mainstreaming climate security across climate adaptation efforts and contributing to resilience-building efforts while maintaining national peace. 2023 will be an important year to move ahead with these commitments and we look forward to the work ahead of us.” – Veronica Ndetu, Coordinator, Climate-Smart Agriculture Multi-Stakeholder Platform (CSA-MSP)
This makes it critical to interpreting climate-conflict links as the result of complex interactions between pre-existing stressors and vulnerabilities, as well as the role played by climate variability in exacerbating these by acting on important intermediary variables. To understand the domino effect of intermediary variables that connect climate impacts to conflict, we need to focus on the interactions between factors from ecological systems (including climate variability, natural resource access and quality, and ecosystem health); socioeconomic systems (including agricultural productivity, food and nutritional security, poverty, and inequity); and political systems and institutions (such as social structures and identities, the nature of institutions and governance, the presence of conflict/instability).
The CGIAR Initiative on Climate Resilience (ClimBeR), together with the Government of Kenya, the African Group of Negotiators Experts Support (AGNES), and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), brought together over 40 experts and practitioners working across the humanitarian, development, and peace and security sectors in Kenya for a two day, in-person workshop to discuss whether and how relevant climate and conflict connections are manifesting across the country.
Here, they began identifying and mapping key stakeholders and co-develop policy and programmatic recommendations towards integrating climate security considerations in climate action strategies. Through brainstorming sessions and focus group discussions, participants reflected on and shared their experiences of how climate change impacts the environmental, social, economic, and political processes that lead to conflict and insecurity. At the same time, participants underlined how fragility and conflict further undermine communities’ resilience to climate change, leaving them ill-equipped to cope with and adapt to the effects of climate variability and extremes. A climate security framework guided the discussion during these workshops, and also laid out a research agenda to address the knowledge gaps of the climate security nexus according to insights shared during the workshop.
The workshop and follow-on engagement with the CSA-MSP helped its members recognize the importance of climate security in building climate resilience. As a result, establishing a multidisciplinary and multi-level community of practice was proposed as a first and critical step towards fostering a climate security agenda in Kenya to break down policy silos across multiple climate, development, peace, and security sectors. One promising, concrete measure in this direction is to increase collaboration among national and sub-national actors through the Climate-Smart Agriculture Multi-Stakeholder Platform (CSA-MSP), a network of organizations currently coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development and has the support of multiple sectors. CSA-MSP’s primary agenda is coordinating stakeholders in the climate-smart agriculture arena.
The platform’s steering committee decided to integrate climate security into its agenda. ClimBeR researchers will work with stakeholders to safeguard the inclusion of indigenous peoples, women, youth, and people with disabilities in climate action.