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Perceptions of the effects of floods and droughts on livelihoods: lessons from arid Kenya

Amy Quandt (Department of Environmental Studies, University of Colorado – Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA)
Yunus Antony Kimathi (Department of Disaster Risk Reduction, Kenya Red Cross Society – Isiolo, Isiolo, Kenya)

International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management

ISSN: 1756-8692

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to understand how people practicing natural resource-based livelihoods in arid Kenya perceive that their livelihoods are being affected by floods and droughts and how to integrate these local perceptions of impacts into larger-scale climate change adaptation initiatives and policy.


In Isiolo County, Kenya, 270 households were surveyed in seven communities, six focus group discussions were held and a document review was conducted.


The major livelihood practiced in Isiolo is pastoralism (71 per cent), but agriculture and non-agro-pastoral activities also play an important role, with 53 per cent of the respondents practicing more than one type of livelihood. In Isiolo, floods have a large impact on agriculture (193 respondents out of 270), while droughts impact both agriculture (104 respondents) and livestock (120 respondents), and more specifically, cattle-keeping (70 respondents).

Research limitations/implications

The research may have implications for the importance of using local perceptions of the effects of climate change on livelihoods for larger-scale interventions. It also provides a case study of local perceptions of the effects of floods and droughts on livelihoods in an arid area with natural resource-dependent livelihoods.

Practical implications

To understand local perceptions and use local perceptions for larger-scale adaptation interventions and policy.


This paper provides a specific example of a climate change adaptation initiative integrating local perceptions of the impacts of floods and droughts into livelihood-focused interventions.



This research was conducted in Isiolo County, Kenya, as part of the PfR Project. The Partners for Resilience Project is a collaborative effort of several Dutch-based organizations including: The Netherlands Red Cross (NLRC), The Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid), CARE Netherlands, Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC) and Wetlands International (WI) and operating in nine countries (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mali, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Nicaragua and Columbia). In Kenya, they are also partnered with the Kenya Red Cross Society, Merti Integrated Development Project and Waso River Users Empowerment Platform. The authors wish to thank all these organizations for their logistic and financial contributions to this research. The Partners for Resilience Project partners funded all aspects of the research in the field, while Quandt served as a Junior Researcher. In addition, the authors would like to thank all of the Kenya Red Cross Society volunteers who helped conduct surveys and the communities themselves for participating in this study. Lastly, the authors would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.


Quandt, A. and Kimathi, Y.A. (2017), "Perceptions of the effects of floods and droughts on livelihoods: lessons from arid Kenya", International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, Vol. 9 No. 03, pp. 337-351.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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