Economic Growth in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands of Kenya

1st November 2018
Author: Izzy Birch

The purpose of this rapid literature review is to help identify sustainable pathways out of poverty for those living in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). The sources reviewed recommend a balanced portfolio of investment, the overall purpose of which should be to progressively expand the options open to dryland populations and their ability to capitalise on them. This approach should recognise that pastoralism and dryland farming are viable livelihoods that will remain the bedrock of dryland economies and should be appropriately strengthened. However, as populations grow and economic differentiation deepens, increasing numbers of people will need alternatives to natural resource-based livelihoods, both within and outside the drylands. These various livelihood pathways should reinforce each other, while also addressing the risks and opportunities that change inevitably brings for women and girls.The literature reviewed for this report draws on published material produced by experts on drylands and pastoralism in the Kenyan context, many of whom have studied the evolution of these areas for decades. The main recommendations to support sustainable livelihoods include ensuring that any investment or programming decision is based on a sound understanding of dryland dynamics and expanding the options open to dryland populations and their capacities to take advantage of them rather than narrow down to a single response. Furthermore, there is a need to consider the particular implications of livelihood transformation for women and girls and to recognise that commercialisation is associated with growing wealth but also widening inequality.

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Suggested Citation

Birch, I. (2018). Economic growth in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies


1st November 2018


Continent: Africa

Country: Kenya