Kenya puts peace and security at the center of climate plans and platforms, adopting CGIAR research recommendations

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Written by Marianne Gadeberg

Longstanding engagement with Kenya’s ministries of environment and agriculture as well as county governments has enabled researchers from the CGIAR Initiative on Climate Resilience (ClimBeR) to influence national and county-level policies aiming to leverage climate action for peace and security.

Climate change poses significant threats to Kenya’s agricultural sector, food security, and overall peace and security. Notably, most agricultural production in the country relies on rain, but rainfall is becoming erratic. Devasting floods in April 2024, short rains in 2023 caused by El Niño, and five consecutive failed rainy seasons have led to loss of livestock, destroyed crops, and displacement of people in search of food and water.  

Compounding these losses are several types of conflicts, including disputes over natural resources, inter-ethnic violence, cattle rustling, border and land conflicts, drug trafficking, and terrorism. This combination means Kenya, an otherwise peaceful nation, risks facing a perpetually reinforcing cycle in which climate shocks lead to rising tensions and conflicts, which in turn hamper efforts to build resilience, thus making communities even more vulnerable to the next climate disaster.  

Acknowledging these risks, the Kenyan government has officially recognized climate change as the fifth threat to national security, adding it to the existing list of terrorism; banditry and livestock rustling; trade, use, and abuse of illicit alcohol, narcotics, and psychotropic substances; and cultural, religious, and political extremism. 

In support of the Kenyan authorities’ efforts to tackle climate security challenges and build long-term peace and resilience, researchers from CGIAR FOCUS Climate Security, which is contributing to ClimBeR, have provided evidence, analysis, and recommendations into national and county-level policies. 

Notably, CGIAR researchers have used publications and evidence from ClimBeR’s Climate Security Observatory to ensure that climate security issues are addressed in Kenya’s new National Climate Change Action Plan III (NCCAP III) (available upon request to the Ministry of Environment). The action plan will guide national adaptation and mitigation actions between 2023 and 2027. In addition, the CGIAR FOCUS Climate Security team is leading the development of a new training course demonstrating how climate-smart agriculture can be used as a tool for peace in Kenya. 

Putting climate security into national action plan fills critical gap 

In 2023, researchers representing ClimBeR and CGIAR Focus Climate Security were invited to provide input into Kenya’s NCCAP III. The action plan outlines the government’s strategy on mitigation and adaptation to climate change impacts during the coming five years, and it was officially launched by Kenya’s President William Ruto during the Africa Climate Summit in September 2023. 

The NCCAP III replaces the previous action plan (20172022), which omitted strategies and recommendations on how to mitigate climate security risks. This despite data from ClimBeR’s Climate Security Observatory (CSO) identifying several potential pathways that could increase climate security risks in Kenya. To close the gap, ClimBeR researchers have provided recommendations on how the NCCAP III can contribute to mitigating such risks. 

“The [CGIAR Focus Climate Security] team made significant evidence-based contributions and strategy actions informed by work done under the ClimBeR Initiative in Kenya to identify climate security actions to be integrated into the NCCAP III. Climate security is a new addition to NCCAP III, and the team’s research and support to engage with stakeholders within the Climate Security and Disasters thematic areas helped us establish concrete actions for the next period 2023-2027,” wrote Lerenten Lelekoitien, Deputy Director, Climate Change Directorate, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry, Kenya, in a letter acknowledging ClimBeR’s contributions. 

Insights from ClimBeR research and other stakeholders have also significantly influenced one of the technical documents underpinning the NCCAP III: the Adaptation Technical Analysis Report (ATAR). The ATAR report outlines strategic action areas, including one on climate-related insecurity. It encourages national and county authorities to, among other actions, integrate traditional, community-based early-warning mechanisms into decision-support tools, explicitly referencing ClimBeR’s Climate Security Observatory and noting that such efforts should be scaled up in counties to foster climate security. 

While ClimBeR’s inputs to the NCCAP III have taken place over many months and engagements, the collaboration was kicked off with a workshop co-hosted by ClimBeR and Kenya Red Cross Society in July 2023. ClimBeR was originally granted the opportunity to contribute to the NCCAP III after initiating conversations with the Kenyan government, the African Group of Negotiators Experts Support, and other national stakeholders on climate security issues in 2022, notably in a workshop designed to achieve a common vision on the issue. This work prompted the Climate-Smart Agriculture Multi-Stakeholder Platform (CSA-MSP), a network tasked with coordinating stakeholders in the climate-smart agriculture arena, to integrate climate security into its Technical Working Group 5 focused on social inclusion. 

Enhancing locally led climate action at county and community level 

Climate security risks cannot be mitigated through national policies alone, but must be addressed at local levels too. That is why Kenya’s county governments have been developing their own County Climate Change Action Plans. Counties where pastoral communities raise their livestock on arid and semi-arid lands face particular challenges: 

“Climate change is contributing to and affecting peace and security in some of these fragile ecosystems. When we have droughts, pastoral communities will be moving around because the resources are scarce, and then this will bring conflict with other communities,” explained Patrick Kibaya, Head of the Climate Change Unit at the State Department for Agriculture and coordinator of the CSA-MSP. “When we are able to address these issues of climate change and build resilience, then it can contribute to long-lasting peace and harmony within those communities.” 

In September 2023, ClimBeR researchers therefore provided evidence and insights to a workshop on integrating peacebuilding and conflict analysis into County Climate Change Action Plans. The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance     ’s Africa Climate Security Initiative (ClimSec-Africa) brought together stakeholders to discuss how to integrate peacebuilding and conflict management as well as to pinpoint any obstacles hindering adoption of innovative climate security solutions within communities. 

The focus on enhancing locally led climate action is echoed in the CSA-MSP. Platform members have identified a pressing need to offer training on how to identify and address potential climate security risks at the county level. 

In response, ClimBeR researchers, under the Technical Working Group 5 of the CSA-MSP and in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, through its Climate Change Unit, and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, have developed a training course for county-level agricultural authorities, representatives of non-government organizations, and farmers.  

“We realize that there is power in partnerships. One partner may not have the solution or the capacity to litigate or to address all the issues affecting a particular community, so we need to team up. I think this partnership we’ve had with ClimBeR has contributed positively to the achievement of most of what we are doing as a platform,” said Kibaya. 

The course, titled Climate, Peace, and Security in Agriculture sector, is designed to illustrate how climate-smart agriculture can contribute to building peace. Its first iteration was conducted for county officials, development actors, and local farmers in Laikipia County in April 2024, and a similar training will be held later in the year in Turkana County. At the same time, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is set to adopt highlights from the course into its curriculum to ensure that the right expertise is available to tackle climate security issues in Kenya for years to come.

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