Drought in Kenya Sparks Food Insecurity and Crime

Drought in Kenya Sparks Food Insecurity and Crime

A brutal drought, made worse by climate change, is plaguing northern Kenya, devastating its residents and their livelihoods. Over the past two years, 85% of the nation’s livestock has died and what remains is being led South. The young men who depend on these animals for work are being left with few options. Under such desperate circumstances, many are turning to crime. This growing courge of violence is being made worse by the hundreds of weapons pouring across the country’s borders from nearby conflict zones. In June, 10 people were killed in just 11 days.

PBS: Millions in East Africa face famine triggered by drought, May 12, 2022.

PBS: Kenya's worst drought in decades creates humanitarian crisis, January 15, 2022.

KTN News: Exclusive aerial footage showing armed bandits in volatile Laikipia subdued and running for safety, September 21, 2021.

Why This Matters

Reliable food systems are required to maintain peace and political stability. Unfortunately, agriculture is dependent of weather, while extreme and inclimate weather is becoming increasingly common. Beyond some more obvious impacts, climate change endangers the global food supply and with that comes increased incidents of violence.

Eight Southern and East African countries could lose 80% of their stable crops by midcentury from increased heat. In Europe, rising food costs have become referred to as "heatflation.” On climate change’s impact on food availability and prices, agricultural economist and business strategist, Enock Chikava stated, "If we continue on this trajectory to 1.5 degrees C or even 2 degrees C, all hell will break loose.” Chikava is also the interim director of agriculture at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Northern Kenya may offer a glimpse of what that hell might look like, where more than 4 million people are food insecure, and three million have limited access to water, according to the UN. Akuagok, a widow living near Illeret, told CNN, "I eat when I can. Mostly I don’t eat every day. Sometimes when I sell charcoal I can eat once maybe twice in three days.”

DW: The future of farming in Africa | Fighting climate change and conflict, May 29, 2021.

TRT World Now: UN report | 40% of all land on Earth damaged by human activities, April 28, 2022.

Cornell University: Climate change reduced farming productivity by 21% since 1961, April 1, 2021.

The Hill: Kamala Harris WARNS wars will be fought over water, not oil, April 7, 2021.

Our Turn With Oil

As climate change exacerbates poverty on the continent and leaders are left with few options, they’ve started reaching for oil and gas. At COP27 this November, the African Union is expected to argue that it should be allowed to benefit from its oil reserves, even if at the expense of the climate, much like rich countries do in the Global North. Climate advocates, of course, don’t agree and are speaking up.

Mohamed Adow, the director of thinktank PowerShift Africa, told the Guardian, Africa is blessed with abundant renewable energy. Africa should not be shackled to expensive fossil fuels for decades.”

Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to BBC World News about the heatwaves, 18 July 2022, July 19, 2022.

CNBC: Will The US Face A Food Shortage?, April 20, 2022.

Tom's Outdoors: Changing Paradigms | Regenerative Agriculture: a Solution to our Global Crisis? | Full Documentary, May 10, 2021.