Drought, Conflict and Migration in Kenya


Researchers spoke with Kenyans to understand how drought-induced migration effects violence.

As droughts worsen across the globe, more people who earn their living through farming and owning livestock are forced to leave their homes. Many academics and policymakers predict that the rise in migration may lead to an increase in violent conflict. However, most existing studies on the topic use country-level or regional data that fail to capture how water shortages directly impact the risk of violence within a population. To better understand the issue, a research team spoke directly with Kenyans affected by the changing environment.

This study, led by the University of Utah, is the first to use a nationwide survey representing an entire country in sub-Saharan Africa to find some connections between droughts, migration and violence. The team surveyed 1400 respondents in 175 locations across Kenya, asking if they had relocated either permanently or temporarily because of drought, if they had been victims of violence, and, using an indirect questioning method, whether they have latent support for the use of violence.

The researchers found that people who have relocated are consistently more likely to experience violence than the general population, yet migrants themselves are no more likely to express support for the use of violence than others. People who migrated temporarily were more likely to support the use of violence only if they themselves had been violently attacked. These problems may be more widespread than previously thought and the findings reported in the article have direct policy implications.

“The people who are already experiencing traumatic moves due to drought are very vulnerable,” said lead author Andrew Linke, assistant professor of geography at the U.

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Image via University of Utah