Category Archives: Food Security / Agriculture

RLC Bonn graduate publishes article in The Journal of Modern African Studies

RLC Bonn PhD graduate Dr. Willis Okumu has published an article in The Journal of Modern African Studies in September 2017.

The paper deals with livestock raids and pastoralist’s competition over water and pastures in north-western Kenya. It argues that you can find manifestation of local ethnic political conetests and rivalries in Samburu, Turkan, Pokot, Borana, Gabra and Rendille communities which has changed the culture of raiding in the past 40 years.

The recent published article composed by Dr. Willis Okumu can be found here.

Public Talk at RLC Campus Lund: “Who benefits from the global food system?”

On November 17th 2016, the RLC Lund invited several scholars and small-scale farmers from different countries to discuss the issues posed by the current global food system. Questions of how and by whom food is produced as well as how it is distributed were among the topics of interest to the participants and experts. The event was attended by the RLA Laureate Pat Mooney, representatives of La Via Campesina like Torgny Östling, the Rural Women Assembly, and the human rights group Evidence, among others.

New blog-article: Cattle Raids in Northern Kenya

by Willis Okumu

Cattle Raids and Victimhood at the Household Level: Experiences of Pastoralists Women in Northern Kenya

The culture of cattle raiding is a shared practice across the Karamoja Cluster. Pastoralists within this geographical area not only share territory but also use cattle for various significant life events such as for paying bride wealth, trade, making sacrifices, as a source of wealth and a daily means of survival. Cattle raiding was therefore an institutionalised means through which communities interacted and acquired livestock to alleviate survival crises occasioned by drought. Cattle raiding also enabled community warriors to prove their mettle by raids aimed at acquiring cattle for the payment of bride wealth. During such raids, cherished values such as braveness and reliable leadership were sought and exhibited as key to warriorhood. In the early 1970s a remarkable change in the culture of raiding started taking root. Raids became more frequent, more violent and groups of warriors acquired automatic weapons that made the organizing of raids no longer a community sanctioned affair but an event independent from the sanctioning powers of communal elders.

Automatic weapons used in cattle raids initially arrived in Samburu district through the fatal raids of Turkana Ngoroko who traversed Samburuland and made incursions among the Samburu people. The Samburu at that time defended their livestock and territory using traditional weaponry of spears, bows and arrows. Given the marginilisation of the whole of pastoralists inhabited Northern Kenya in terms of accessibility infrastructure and limited presence of state security. Local politicians from the late 1970s appealed to the then President Moi to issue government arms and ammunition to local volunteer police who were christened ‘Kenya Police Reservists’. The initial batch of reservists were recruited towards the end of 1970. They were trained by local police on shooting ranges such as Mt. Nyiro and deployed in their respective villages and grazing lands as protection against Ngoroko raiders. The unintended effect of arming locals is that it brought a new feel of power among the reservists. The power of carrying a loaded rifle and its impact on traditionally armed herders changed the nature of raids. Armed reservists increasingly used their government issued guns to support warriors from their ethnic groups during fatal raids between the Samburu and Turkana. With continued raids, victims and sense of victimhood solidified between these groups thus fueling a strong sense of revenge raids which further led to more deaths and displacement of raid victims from their homes.

Arming of police reservists by the state not only helped to solidify ethnic identities. Guns issued to reservists were seen as belonging to specific communities. Hence a communal tool for defence and aggression in raids. The use of guns in raids brought a new sense of efficiency during raids thus further propelling the demand for more guns. On the other hand the use of guns broke the institutional structure of traditional raiding which prohibited violence on children, women and the aged. Raiding using guns thus opened Turkana and Samburu households to indiscriminate gun fire during cattle raids. This further fuelled the need to acquire more weapons at the household level.

Genesis of Conflict and Solidification of Victimhood

Solidification of sense of victimhood among pastoralists’ households can be argued to have taken root since 1996. In 1996, there was a massive raid of Samburu and Rendille herders by Turkana raiders at Soito Kokoyo dam near Marti town in Samburu North sub County. The sense of victimhood by those sides can be argued to be key to never ending cycle ov violence as violence narratives are passed on from generation to generation thus burdening warrior groups with the expectation not only to to conduct raids for their contemporary purposes but also to revenge on behalf of their elder generation for past aggressions. According to Rose Learamo, a 62 year old Samburu woman from Bendera village; “Armed raiding started in the 1970s when Turkana raiders killed chief Lekuye and the Samburu reacted by fighting back. The raids have affected my household and my daily life. I lost a daughter who was killed by Turkana raiders before she got married. My brother who was a moran was also killed when they went to raid the Turkana in Natiti. Because of this conflict I have had to move all the time. In the 1970s I was living in Ldonyo Mara but I had to move to Baragoi town and later I settled here in Bendera due to insecurity”.

On the Turkana side, Adung Julia, a 72 years old woman from Nalingangor village traces the Turkana-Samburu conflict to 1996. According to her; “the conflict started when an airplane was shot down at Nachola area while carrying out a security operation to recover stolen cattle by the Turkana from the Samburu and Rendille herders. After the Turkana raiders shot down the plane, a massive security operation was carried out by paramilitary police. Security officers took away three Turkana men: Lochikiria, Aukot and Epokor. The whereabouts of these three men is unknown to date. This particular episode was the beginning of massive raids and highway attacks between the Samburu and Turkana”.

Cattle Raids at the Household Level

While raiding is indeed a male dominated affair, the impact of raids on pastoralists households are more far reaching and devastating. In Samburu North, intense raids have contributed directly to loss of lives during raids. While most raids initially take place far away from settlement areas, revenge attacks that ensue thereafter are often more organised and contribute to indiscriminate shootings in settled areas. Ekiru Lochuch a 76 years old Turkana woman recalls a Samburu raid in Naikit Amejen. During that raid her daughter Lokoro Lochuch, her son in law Loriu Lopeyok and two of their children were killed and their 300 cows and 10 camels taken by the Samburu raiders. This raid left her with no clear means of survival as she resorted to come and settle in Baragoi town where she started brewing alcohol to support her younger children. Similarly, Julieta Lekaere, a 58 years old Samburu woman from Bendera village attributed her constant migration from place to place over the last two decades to insecurity occasioned by raids between the Samburu and Turkana. On a more personal level, she lost her brother who was shot dead during a raid at Mt. Daniel near Baragoi High School. During that raid, the Lekaere family also lost their homestead which was turned into a battle field between Samburu and Turkana warriors. But more significantly the raid at Mt. Daniel led to loss of grazing areas by the family thus further endangering the survival of their family livestock.

Pastoralists’ women in Samburu North can be argued to be the main victims of cattle raids at the household level. When raids occur, women lose their sons and husbands. This is because warriors armed with modern automatic rifles increasingly organise raids away from the institutional guidance of the elders as was done four decades ago. Once warriors come back home after successful raids, revenge raids are expected from the raided community and preparations are collectively made with retired morans to defend territory and livestock. Revenge raids that take place within settled areas tend to be very indiscriminate as warriors rely on the surprise element. They lay ambush in the thickets or in the dark and launch ferocious attacks aimed at catching their victims flat footed. During these raids, children, women and the elderly are killed. Killings occasioned by indiscriminate shootings during revenge raids fuels revenge and sense of victimhood. Women happen to suffer more as they are left with the burden of raising households such violent raids which robs pastoralists of able-bodied men and livestock that they should survive on.

Women collecting water for household use as men water their animals in Charda, a Turkana village in Samburu North sub-County


turkana morans guarding donkeys at a waterpoint in Charda village


Kawap Primary School, vandalized and abandoned due to raids between the Turkana and Samburu warriors
Kawap Primary School, vandalized and abandoned due to raids between the Turkana and Samburu warriors




Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement – A Global Assessment for Sustainable Development

by Ephraim Nkonya, Alisher Mirzabaev and Joachim von Braun
This book on Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement
provides withvaluable knowledge and information both at the global, regional, and national levels on the costs of land degradation and benefits of taking action against land degradation. A key advantage of this book is that it goes beyond the conventional market values of only crop and livestock products lost due to land degradation, but seeks to capture all major terrestrial losses of ecosystem services. Twelve carefully selected national case studies provide rich information about various local contexts of cost
of land degradation as evaluated by local communities, drivers of land degradation,and amenable strategies for sustainable land management.

The research presented in the book shows that investments to address landdegradation have significant economic payoffs. Next to investments, we have to address the question of adoption of sustainable land management practices and policies. To implement land restoration, we need to understand obstacles within the

social, economic, and the political context. The results of this study show that particular attention needs to be paid to tangible local incentives for taking action against land degradation. This requires secure land rights, enhancing extensionservices, and empowering local communities to manage their natural resources. The
identification of implementation pathways through multitakeholder processesassumes a particular importance in this regard. This book can serve as a highlyvaluable resource and reference for policymakers, civil society, researchers, and practitioners.
Single sections of the publication or the whole book can be downloaded here.

Social Safety Nets for Food and Nutritional Security in India

by Sudha Narayanan and Nicolas Gerber

This paper brings together existing literature on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNRGEA) and the Public Distribution System (PDS) in India, offering a narrative

review of the evidence on impacts on food security, health and nu
trition of beneficiaries. Bothprograms operate on a large scale and have the capacity to impact the factors leading toundernutrition. It is evident that despite the deficiencies in implementation, both the MGNREGA andthe PDS are inclusive and reach the
poor and the marginalized who are likely to also experience
greater undernutrition and poor health. Data challenges have however prevented researchers from conducting studies that assess the ultimate impact of these two large – scale programs on health and nutrition. The evidence that exists suggests largely positive impacts indicating a clear potential tomake these programs more nutrition sensitive not just by incorporating elements that would
explicitly address nutritional concerns but also by directing sp
ecific attention to innovations thatstrengthen critical complementarities and synergies that exist between the two programs.

The paper can be read or downloaded here.




A rights-based food security principle for biomass sustainability standards and certification systems

by Anna Mohr, Tina Beuchelt, Rafael Schneider and Detlef Virchow

With the shift from petroleum-based to biomass-based economies, global biomass demand and trade is growing. This trend could become a threat to food security. Though rising concerns about sustainability aspects have led to the development of voluntary certification standards to ensure that biomass is sustainably produced, food security aspects are hardly addressed as practical criteria and indicators lack. The research objective of this working paper is to identify how the Human Right to adequate Food (RtaF), which is applicable in over 100 countries, can be ensured in local biomass production and in certification systems in food insecure regions. We aim to first develop a suitable conceptual framework to integrate the RtaF in biomass production, processing and trade and derive guidance for the choice of the criteria. Second, we identify appropriate criteria to ensure that the RtaF is not violated by certified biomass operators based on a comprehensive literature review, stakeholder workshops and expert interviews with certification bodies, standard initiatives, NGOs, ministries, scientists and enterprises. The conceptual framework is based on the UN “Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the RtaF in the Context of National Food Security” and the four dimensions of food security. Based on this framework, we developed the rights-based food security principle. To ensure that the RtaF is not adversely affected by certified biomass production and trade, we propose 45 criteria, classified in 17 themes which are derived from the voluntary guidelines. The suggested criteria are applicable to all biomass types and uses and serve as a best-practice set to complement existing sustainability standards for biomass.

The paper can be read or downloaded here.

Tapping Potentials of Innovation for Food Security and Sustainable Agricultural Growth: An Africa-Wide Perspective

by Christine Husmann, Joachim von Braun, Ousmane  Badiane, Yemi Akinbamijo, Fatunbi O. Abiodun and Detlef Virchow

While in the past, increased use of inputs and expansion of agricultural land accounted for a good part of agricultural growth in Africa, improvements in productivity will need to be a major driver of growth in the future. Thus, agricultural innovations are needed to sustainably increase productivity, i.e. output per unit of all inputs, while maintaining environmental quality and resources. Such innovations require enhanced investments in research and development. This study identifies potentials in agriculture and food systems in Africa for enhanced food security. For maximum impact, the Special Initiative “One World – No Hunger” of BMZ needs to take note of the whole African landscape of actions in agriculture and food security. Therefor this study provides a detailed review of related ongoing and recent initiatives, in order to help identify in what ways investments under the “One World – No Hunger“ Special Initiative from a broad strategic perspective might best connect and serve in coherent and complementary ways to increase food and nutrition security and sustainable agricultural productivity growth. Innovations in the agricultural sector are key to ensure food security and achieve the right to food. Investments in the agricultural sector are crucial not only to increase food production but also because the returns on investments in terms of poverty reduction effects are often highest in in this sector. Furthermore, food insecurity and violent conflicts are inextricably interlinked with food insecurity being both a driver and a consequence of violent conflicts and related refugee flows. African countries have recently made major commitments to invest in agriculture. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), that was initiated in 2003 and has been reinforced by the Malabo Declaration in 2014, is now the reference point and measure of commitment in Africa. With CAADP, African countries committed to spend 10% of their total public expenditures on agriculture to achieve an annual agricultural growth rate of 6%. Other African and international initiatives, including new partnerships between African governments, donors and the private sector like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition or Feed the Future, have since been launched to support the CAADP process.

The paper can be read or downloaded here.


Conflict over Ltungai Conservancy: A Case of Fatal Competition over Grazing Land and Water among the Samburu and Pokot in north-western Kenya

Willis Okumu photo (2)by Willis Okumu

PhD student at the RLC Campus Bonn, published a working paper  on “Conflict over Ltungai Conservancy: A Case of Fatal Competition over Grazing Land and Water among the Samburu and Pokot in north-western Kenya”, in: Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe (eds.) “A Delicate Balance Land Use, Minority Rights and Social Stability in the Horn of Africa”, Institute of Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), Addis Ababa University.

Mr. Okumu is pursuing his PhD research at Center for Development Research in Bonn under the title “Cattle Raids, Violence and Institutional Change in Northern Kenya: The Case of Samburu and Turkana Pastoralists”. He is currently doing field research in northern Kenya.

The paper can be read or downloaded here.