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NAIROBI, 19 August 2008 (IRIN) - Pastoralists in East Africa's arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) need to be empowered to adapt to, and survive, climate change, a report by a humanitarian organisation says.

"Pastoralists across East Africa are starting to learn to live with the reality of climate change, adapting as they can to its impact," Oxfam International says in a report launched on 18 August in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. 


According to an August 18 field mission report, Pastoralists Living on the Edge in Kenya, released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, climate change also plays a crucial role in inter-ethnic conflicts among the pastoralist communities in northern Kenya. Thousands of environmental refugees flee from drought, which results in pasture and water shortages for livestock.

The report says pastoralists living in the ASAL areas are bearing the brunt of adverse consequences, particularly food insecurity due to droughts, floods and livestock diseases.

"There is a humanitarian crisis looming in Northern Kenya as pastoralists have resorted to eating wild fruits and gum arabica to contain hunger. This is a community which has been self-reliant on food as the majority of them were farmers," the OCHA report said, adding: "It is about time donors and government reconsider their strategies and empower pastoralist communities by directing funding support to pastoralists' institutions."

In its report, Oxfam recommended that governments within East Africa should protect the land and resource rights of pastoralists, eliminate inappropriate development policies and provide support to the pastoralist communities through cash payments in place of food aid.