• Moses Otunga | Media and Communications Assistant for IOM Kenya

Pastoralists in Kenya are bearing the brunt of climate change despite being the least contributors to the phenomenon. Climate change has disproportionately affected communities in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) in Kenya, displacing people multiple times. Unrelenting drought and floods have led to the loss of livestock and livelihoods.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the drought which devastated the East and Horn of Africa region between September 2022 and June 2023, left over 5 million people in Kenya without access to food and clean water. IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix reported that majority of pastoralists and farmers in ASAL counties had to relocate to neighboring counties to survive. Many of them have been forced to walk for longer distances than usual in their desperate search for food and water, frequently crossing borders and coming across different communities along the way stoking communal tensions.

For many Kenyan communities, adverse effects of climate change are an everyday reality. Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes, families, communities, and cultures. Communities displaced by climate change carry with them stories of struggle and resilience as they move from place to place. Their stories highlight how climate change is indeed a growing driver of human mobility, interacting with demographic change, conflict and poverty in ways that undermine progress towards sustainable development, human safety and well-being, and peace.

Here are portraits and personal stories of people who have been directly impacted by climate change.

Nur Bashir

Nur, 48, a livestock farmer who now lives in Minjila, migrated from Walkon when severe drought hit the area killing his livestock. He settled in Gamba, where the land was lush, and his cattle flourished. He possessed a large herd of cattle and was content.

A few years later, Nur woke up to floods that occurred in a single night. He lost nearly 100 cows only managing to save a few. He was forced to relocate to higher grounds in Minjila.

"I have sold almost all of my cows to make ends meet for my family,” says Nur, “In hard times, I sell one cow to make sure my kids don't go hungry."

"I worry that when I go to check on my barn one day, I won't have any cows left to sell,” says Nur.

"When I was young, we used to move around according to the seasons, Nur adds, but today we cannot forecast, this used to be our way of life.”


Years back, 67-year-old, Abdirahman depended on pastoralism, crop farming and beekeeping to survive. “The river we depended on changed its course, and after few months, the land became so bare and very hard to dig,” says Abdirahman, “I knew that there was a change in weather when there were no bees for me to harvest honey.”

I had many goats but most of them succumbed to drought in 2019, after several months, floods finished what was left, now my family and I do not have any means to survive,” He adds.



Due to her advanced age, 69-year-old widow Serura of the Twafiq community is dependent on her kids. To support her family, a few of them moved to Hola town and started working there.

"We used to milk cows every day, there was plenty of milk available, and food was readily available," remarks Serura, "but times have changed since I was married to this community."

Variable weather patterns in the Minjila have meant many families in the area are on the verge. Many are being forced to look for never available alternative sources of income.

"Before the drought struck in 2021, I had considered selling my herd of cattle to build rental houses in Hola town. I regret holding onto them because they are an inheritance from my husband," recalls Serura, “Since this is our way of life, I wanted my kids to be pastoralists as well.”


Issa, 54, is a community leader in Minjila, Tana River County. "A lot of people here attempted to plant because they believed it to be the rainy season, but we had a severe drought," Issa remarks. "How do you survive in such conditions?" he asks, "We cannot even plant crops."

"I myself made many attempts to plant crops, but I have never been able to harvest anything, before harvest season floods hit and destroy all of our crops," says Issa.

Life is hard for all of us here.

Communities in Tana River are now resorting to cutting down the few remaining trees to get firewood to make charcoal as an alternative source of livelihood. This is further destroying the ecology of the area and Minjila is slowly becoming prone to ferocious flash floods.


Kumbizi, 53, moved from Marereni to a displacement site near Minjila as economic situation got tough and living there became unbearable. On 9 November 2023, he woke up to devastating floods that washed away everything he owned.

‘I have been forced to move away from my hut again, but where do I go now? asks Kumbizi, ‘I can only wait by the road and beg people for help.’

Residents of Tana River are now reeling from the effects of the rains after River Tana burst its banks and flooded their homes.

‘I lost all the chicken that I kept, ‘I have not slept the whole night thinking of what will happen next.’

”I am drinking dirty rain water because I am hungry, I have nothing to eat now” says Kumbizi, Tana River County, Coastal Kenya. Photo: IOM 2023/Moses Otunga


Ekwuon,60, used to own a herd of cattle but lost them to the drought.

“When I was a child, everything was different. There was plenty of grass, water, and animals. But now there is nothing except for drought,” explains Ekwuon.


SDG 13 - Climate Action