Locally-based mapping and management of resources in Kenya's northern drylands

Dorine Odongo/ILRI, Creative Commons via Flickr
Published: 16 December 2020
Last edited: 16 December 2020
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Pastoralist communities do not simply ‘cope’ with arid and semi-arid conditions; rather they tailor their production strategies to harness the benefits that variability in rainfall and plant nutrients can offer, to maximize livestock productivity over other livelihoods. Recognizing this, this solution comprises two tools for facilitating bottom-up climate change resource management, in which decision-making and planning is placed in the hands of pastoralists at the ward level. Transferring management power 

from the central government to the local level (also known as devolved power) increases capacity of communities to respond rapidly and flexibly in highly variable and sometimes unpredictable climatic conditions – something which is difficult to achieve when such power is centralized and top-down. This solution is published as part of the project Ecosystem-based Adaptation; strengthening the evidence and informing policy, coordinated by IIED, IUCN and UN Environment WCMC.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Rangeland / Pasture
Ecosystem services
Legal & policy frameworks
Terrestrial spatial planning
Traditional knowledge
Water provision and management
Land and Forest degradation
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Lack of access to long-term funding
Sustainable development goals
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources


Isiolo, Eastern Province, Kenya | Oldonyiro, Sericho, Chari, Chalbi, Garbatulla and Kinna


  • Climate change in this already dynamic and unpredictable [area] is threatening local ecosystem resilience and service provision, through e.g. variations in rainfall, droughts, well-drying, increase livestock disease (including mortality rates of 40-60% during prolonged drought 2008-11)
  • Governance, institutions and legal frameworks are weak, both for protecting ecosystems and for supporting pastoral livelihoods – over time the adaptive capacity of drylands communities has been eroded, as local voices have been excluded from natural resource planning and management, and possible policy involvment for pastoralist livelihoods has decreased
  • Pastoralism is wrongly perceived as ‘backwards’ and a cause of environmental degradation, despite evidence suggesting otherwise
  • There is a disconnect between community and formal planning systems, with the central government sometimes imposing planning uniformly, in a way which is not able to address or account for locally special conditions


This solution benefits pastoralist communities in Isiolo and the neighbouring counties of Marsabit, Wajir and Garissa in particular 

How do the building blocks interact?

The two building blocks are a community-led devolved climate change fund (Isiolo Community Climate Change Fund – CCCF) and a participatory mapping process. Participatory mapping has generated paper maps and GIS data layers depicting natural resource information; this data now supports strategizing and decision-making within the CCCF, facilitating spatially targeted, high-value and context-appropriate action. Both building blocks build capacity and foster community engagement, mutually supporting each other to empower communities and deliver devolved governance for climate change adaptation and building resilience. Importantly, both building blocks allow communities avoiding hard infrastructural strategies for climate-change adaptation by making a strong case for ecosystem-based adaptation.


Devolved (or locally-based) climate change planning allowed context-specific climate change adaptation activities to be planned, funded and implemented. This includes e.g. conservation of key water sources to prevent overgrazing, funding of local-led sustainable water resource governmence, operations and formal recognition of customary range-management institutions, and development (in collaboration with Kenya Meteorological Department) of a County Climate Information Services Plan for dissemination of climate-related information. Tangible adaptation and resilience benefits were experienced by an estimated 18,825 people from 2010-14. In 2014, Isiolo County managed to avoid reaching ‘alarm’ level of drought and its accompanying socioeconomic decline despite rainfall patterns that would be expected to bring this; this was attributed to good natural resource management. Devolved funding supported community-level planning through customary institutions and management for e.g. enforcement of grazing patterns and improved water governance, helping to avoid overgrazing. Overall, it was felt that land deterioration was slowed as a result of the devolved climate-change planning activities, and that resilience was improved as a result.

Contributed by

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Xiaoting Hou Jones IIED

Other contributors

The Adaptation (Ada) Consortium