The effects of livestock rustling on livelihoods of pastoral communities in the Turkwell river belt along the Turkana/Pokot border
Livestock rustling is not a new phenomenonamong pastoral societies in Kenya. Traditionally, various pastoral communities use raiding as a cultural practice for restocking of herds, especially after periods of drought or outbreaks of diseases. However, in recent years, livestock raiding has become more frequent, violent and destructive. This study was established to assess the effects of livestock rustling on the livelihoods of pastoral communities living along the Turkwel River belt which divides Turkana South and West Pokot Districts. It addressed three objectives: 1) causes and extent of livestock rustling in Turkwel River belt, 2) effects of livestock rustling on pastoralist livelihood and 3) conflict resolution mechanism used in the management of livestock rustling in the area and their effectiveness. The study adopted a survey research design with the triangulation research methods in data collection. The selection of Turkwel River belt was done purposively due to the high occurrences of conflict which was a special characteristic which was not common with the other divisions in the two counties. Random sampling was used to select six sub locations out of the thirteen sub locations in the two divisions. Respondents were clustered into three groups of men, women and youth. Focus group discussions and interviews were carried out with 109 members of the Turkana and Pokot communities and key informants. The study established that livestock raids in the Turkwel River belt are a major occurrence and are caused by many factors such as unwillingness to share grazing land, rampant drought and famine in the area and rivalry among others. The persistent livestock raids in the area started more than 20 years ago (87.2%) and are still a major occurrence in the area (30%). Livestock raids occur on a weekly basis according to 41.1% of the respondents. Youths from the age of 16 years are the ones involved in livestock raids which perpetuate conflict. Livestock raids have major effects on the Turkana and the Pokot communities living in the Turkwel River belt. The raids have mainly resulted in deaths, high dependency on food relief, environmental degradation, large numbers of people contracting HIV/Aids and also a large number of IDPs in the area. The high incidences of livestock raids have also resulted in high illiteracy levels in the community rated at 76.6%, high levels of hunger and poverty (89.8%) and increased levels of immigration (81.8%). Various actions have been taken to deal with livestock raids. These include community sensitization meetings and community dialogue. Different members of the community are involved in peace initiatives to deal with this conflict. The conflict resolution mechanisms adopted by the community lead mainly to reducedincidences of raids in the area (45.6%) but do not necessarily mean the livestock will be returned. The study recommends enhanced community level joint peace and livelihood activities between the Pokot and Turkana people to facilitate the spirit of interaction and coexistence among the members of the two communities and hence resolve conflicts. Addressing the challenges affecting the youth, especially unemployment, idleness and illiteracy would go a long way in reducing their participation in conflict and livestock rustling in theTurkwel river belt. The study further recommends that stakeholder organizations in the area should take lead in addressing alternative sources of income and livelihood that would help the community in rechanneling their strengths towards harnessing of livelihood opportunities.