Daasanach, Ileret Ward

Lake Turkana, Kenya

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory.
Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data.

The Daasanach agropastoralists of northern Kenya report severe droughts and scarcer and unpredictable rainfall resulting from climate change, and decreased access to freshwater following the construction of large infrastructure projects recently established in the Omo River, such as the Gilgel Gibe III Dam. The synergistic effects of climate change and large infrastructure projects drive multiple and cascading impacts on the Daasanach social-ecological system.

Lake Turkana map


Seminomadic and agropastoralist community living in southern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and South Sudan. They number 19,000 people in Kenya.

Man - Ico

Men search for pastures and herd the livestock.

Woman - Ico

Women take care of crops and fetch water.

Mapa Lake Turkana

Credit: André Braga Junqueira


Herding - Ico

Herding: mainly cattle, also sheep, goats, donkeys and camels.

Plant - Ico

Agriculture: sorghum, maize and beans.

Fish - Ico

Fishing is increasing as herding becomes more difficult.


Credit: Daniel Burgas



Changes in the climate

Thermomether - Ico
32 °C avg.

Gradual rise of temperatures: warming trend since early or mid- twentieth century.

Water - Ico
<200 mm /year

More severe droughts and changes in the rain distribution: a wetter spring season and a drier fall season, with occasional pronounced floods.


Changes in the territory

Glass water - Ico

Traditional wells and water holes in riverbeds. Animals drink directly from the lake.

Gilgel Gibe III Dam (Ethiopia): The dam has disrupted the natural water flow to Lake Turkana, receding water levels by up to 70% and increasing salinity.

Flooding - Ico

Flooding and receding lake waters create fertile communal land for pasture and crops.

Sibiloi National Park: the protected area has restricted access to communal lands and limited grazing and hunting of endangered species, such as cheetahs and leopards.


The Daasanach people have complex knowledge about climate change-induced impacts and how they interact with human activities such as water management infrastructures or conservation interventions. Through their voices, we have a better understanding of the biological and sociocultural effects of climate change

Drivers of change

Bolas Lake Turkana


Biocultural collisions

Credit: Miquel Torrents-Ticó

Biocultural collisions
Wildlife loss has led to strict conservation policies that locals do not always perceive positively, as they interfere with herding, limiting access to pastures and protecting predators responsible for livestock losses.

A fragile ecosystem equilibrium

Credit: André Braga Junqueira

A fragile ecosystem equilibrium
The Gilgel Gibe III Dam, designed to bring power to and improve irrigation in the area, has caused a reduction in the quality of cattle milk and fishing yields.

Fishing against all odds

Credit: André Braga Junqueira

Fishing against all odds
As a pastoral herding community, fishing had always been a minor and undervalued activity. However, droughts and food shortages have led to an increase in fishing at a time when fish stocks are already declining.


Adaptations of Daasanach livelihoods
Harsh climatic conditions and human-driven activities, such as water infrastructures and conservation policies, have worsened the livelihoods of the Daasanach people around Lake Turkana, which entered the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger in 2018. As a result of growing barriers to pastoral mobility, they have increased fishing and shifted their crops.

Underrating environmental and cultural impacts
Environmental and cultural impacts were underestimated during the design of the Gilgel Gibe III Dam, as were the conservation policies of Sibiloi National Park. Top-down interventions tend to undervalue and over look the interplay between biocultural heritage and its impacts on local communities.

Intergenerational challenges
Multifaceted social-ecological pressures threaten herding and the traditions of the Daasanach people. Although the local community identifies the need for conservation policies, the priority species to be protected differ from the policies adopted. In addition, disagreements arise between the older and younger community members, with the younger members more willing to suggest changes to adapt their cultural practice to align with conservation policies.


The Daasanach communities wish to be heard and take an active role in the planning of infrastructures and conservation programs that could potentially impact their territory, whether directly or indirectly. Their holistic understanding of the environment as a complex ecosystem that impacts their livelihood activities, the survival of the existing fauna and flora, and the drivers of change should not be overlooked.


The livelihoods of the Daasanach people are closely tied to climatic conditions and the availability of natural resources. They have continuously adapted their ways of life around a harsh and somewhat erratic climate, coping with water scarcity, flooding, and the disappearance of food resources. Thus, they provide good practices that can serve as an inspiration to other communities and territories.

Credit: Daniel Burgas


Interactions between Climate Change and Infrastructure Projects in Changing Water Resources: Ethnobiological Perspective from the Daasanach, Kenya. Braga Junqueira A, Fernández-Llamazares Á, Torrents-Ticó M, Lokono Haira P, Guol Nasak J, Burgas D, Fraixedas S, Cabeza M Reyes-García V (2023). Journal of Ethnobiology, 41(3): 331-348. doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-41.3.331

Convergences and divergences between scientific and Indigenous and Local Knowledge contribute to inform carnivore conservation. Torrents- Ticó M, Fernández-Llamazares Á, Burgas D, Cabeza M (2021). Ambio, 50:990–1002. doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01443-4

Biocultural conflicts: understanding complex interconnections between a traditional ceremony and threatened carnivores in north Kenya. Torrents-Ticó M, Fernández-Llamazares Á, Burgas D, Guol Nasak J, Cabeza M (2021). Oryx, 1-10. doi.org/10.1017/S0030605322000035


Film: “Shepherds of the Earth”, produced by Gerilla Films.
View trailer here
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Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Miquel Torrents-Ticó and André Braga Junqueira