Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie

The German Journal of Economic Geography

Editor-in-Chief: Henn, Sebastian / Thomi, Walter

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 0.276
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.000

CiteScore 2017: 1.09

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.263
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.567

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 60, Issue 1-2


For better or worse: major developments affecting resource and conflict dynamics in northwest Kenya

Janpeter Schilling
  • Corresponding author
  • Janpeter Schilling, CLISEC, Institute of Geography, University of Hamburg, Grindelberg 7, 20144 Hamburg, Germany, and International Alert, London, UK, e-mail: janpeter.schilling@uni-hamburg.de
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Thomas Weinzierl
  • Corresponding author
  • Thomas Weinzierl, CLISEC, Institute of Geography, University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Augustine Ekitela Lokwang / Francis Opiyo
  • Corresponding author
  • Francis Opiyo, United Nations Development Programme, Global Policy Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2016-06-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zfw-2016-0001


The county of Turkana, located in northwest Kenya, has a long history of violent conflicts. These are fought by pastoral groups over scarce water, land, pasture and livestock resources. Now oil has been found in Turkana, fuelling both hopes for a resource blessing and fears of a resource curse. The discovery of oil coincides with four other major developments, namely the process of devolution, the large-scale infrastructure project LAPSSET (Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport), the discovery of significant aquifers and the Gibe III dam in Ethiopia. The aim of this paper is first to give an overview of these developments, and second to explore their interactions and their effects on existing and potentially new resource and conflict dynamics. The article is based on a review of the academic literature as well as newspaper articles, government records and company publications. Further, we analyze security data and draw on extensive field research conducted in northwest Kenya over the past five years. To illustrate potential pathways, we draft a worst and best case scenario. Our results suggest that the described developments will strongly affect the existing water, land and livestock resources and create new ones in the form of revenues, business opportunities, employment and infrastructure. To decrease the conflict potential and to maximize benefits, it is highly important for any project to closely include the local communities in a fair and transparent manner.

Keywords: : conflict; development; Kenya; land; oil; pastoralism; resources; Turkana; water.


  • Africa Review (2013): Kenya sets up agency for $29bn South Sudan, Ethiopia project. 20 January 2016. Internet: http://www.africareview.com//Business---Finance/Kenya-sets-up-agency-for-regional-mega-project/-/979184/1736032/-/11awm31z/-/index.html. Google Scholar

  • Allibhai, N. (2015): Come and count our bones – community voices from lake turkana on the impacts of Gibe III Dam. 22 December 2015. Internet: www.internationalrivers.org/files/attached-files/come_and_count_our_bones_1.pdf. Google Scholar

  • Auty, R. (2004): Natural resources and civil strife: A two-stage process. In: Geopolitics, 9(1), 29–49. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Avery, S. (2013): What future for Lake Turkana. Oxford: University of Oxford. Google Scholar

  • Baddi, M. A. (2015): Press statement on the proposed Lamu port. Lamu. 5 January 2016. Internet: http://www.savelamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/PRESS-STATEMENT-LAMU-PORT-25.1.12.pdf. Google Scholar

  • BBC (2014): Kenya: Turkana residents hope to benefit from oil discovery. 24 November 2015. Internet: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26575529. Google Scholar

  • Bloomberg (2016): Crude oil and natural gas. 21 February 2016. Internet: http://www.bloomberg.com/energy. Google Scholar

  • Business Daily (2015): Tullow enters new phase with mega Turkana camp plan. 21 February 2016. Internet: http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Corporate-News/Tullow-enters-new-phase-with-mega-Turkana-camp-plan/-/539550/2657176/-/11vunr3z/-/index.html. Google Scholar

  • Business Daily (2016): Turkana oil-fuelled economy boom dream fades as crude price drops. 6 May 2016. Internet: http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Corporate-News/Turkana-oil-fuelled-economy-boom-dream-fades/-/539550/3072672/-/lc10fl/-/index.html. Google Scholar

  • Collier, P./Hoeffler, A. (2005): Resource rents, governance, and conflict. In: Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(4), 625–633. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Collier, P./Hoeffler, A./Rohner, D. (2009): Beyond greed and grievance: Feasibility and civil war. In: Oxford Economic Papers, 61(1), 1–27. Google Scholar

  • Cornell, A./D’Arcy, M. (2014): Plus ca change? County-level politics in Kenya after devolution. In: Journal of Eastern African Studies, 8(1), 173–191. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • County Government of West Pokot (2015): Land dispute. 22 December 2015. Internet: http://www.westpokot.go.ke/index.php/land-dispute. Google Scholar

  • CRA, (2015): CRA visits turkana county. 6 January 2016. Internet: http://www.crakenya.org/cra-visits-turkana-county/. Google Scholar

  • Daily Nation (2015a): Lapsset blow as Uganda signs pipeline deal with Tanzania. 21 December 2015. Internet: http://www.nation.co.ke/business/Lapsset-blow-as-Uganda-signs-pipeline-deal-with-Tanzania/-/996/2911370/-/12fcvou/-/index.html Google Scholar

  • Daily Nation (2015b): Lapsset investors urge government to tame rocketing land prices. 21 December 2015. Internet: http://www.nation.co.ke/business/High-cost-of-land-besets-Lapsset-project/-/996/2881674/-/1ebq6s/-/index.html. Google Scholar

  • Daily Nation (2015c): Leaders launch peace caravan to fight banditry in three North Rift counties. 21 December 2015. Internet: http://www.nation.co.ke/counties/-Leaders-launch-peace-caravan-t/-/1107872/2723756/-/7xh9vhz/-/index.html. Google Scholar

  • Daily Nation (2015d): Poverty ravages Turkana as new goals unveiled. Internet: http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Turkana-Poverty-Millennium-Development-Goals/-/1056/2834486/-/987cas/-/index.html. Google Scholar

  • Daily Nation (2015e): Sharp drop in crude prices busts Kenya’s oil sector boom. 21 December 2015. Internet: https://www.google.com/search?q=lapsset+costs&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=oil+pipeline+kenya+costs. Google Scholar

  • Daily Nation (2015f): Turkana opens first university. 21 December 2015. 6 May 2016. Internet: http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Turkana-opens-first-university-/-/1056/2887160/-/8wrunoz/-/index.html. Google Scholar

  • Darko, E. (2014): Short guide summarising the oil and gas industry lifecycle for a non-technical audience. London: Overseas Development Institute. Google Scholar

  • de Vries, D./Leslie, P./McCabe, J. (2006): Livestock acquisitions dynamics in nomadic pastoralist herd demography: A case study among Ngisonyoka herders of South Turkana, Kenya. In: Human Ecology, 34(1), 1–25. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Dent, M. J. (2004): Identity politics: Filling the gap between federalism and independence. Hants: Ashgate. Google Scholar

  • Economist (2013): Pipeline poker. 5 February 2016. Internet: http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21578402-east-africa-danger-throwing-away-part-its-new-found-oil. Google Scholar

  • Financial Times (2014): Kenya’s target for initial oil production faces obstacles. 1 April 2015. Internet: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/692e4bec-603f-11e4-88d1-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3W4AZzn4F. Google Scholar

  • Gibe 3 Hydroelectric Project (2012): Background. 22 December 2015. Internet: http://www.gibe3.com.et/brief.html. Google Scholar

  • GoK (2007): National policy for the sustainable development of arid and semi arid lands. Nairobi: Government of Kenya. Google Scholar

  • GoK (2010): The constitution of Kenya. Nairobi: Government of Kenya. Google Scholar

  • GoK (2012): Kenya discovers oil, president Kibaki announces. 2 November 2012. Internet: http://www.statehousekenya.go.ke/news/march2012/2012260301.htm. Google Scholar

  • GoK (2014a): County allocation of revenue bill, 2014. Nairobi: Government of Kenya. Google Scholar

  • GoK (2014b): National energy policy. Nairobi: Government of Kenya. Google Scholar

  • GoK (2015): Draft devolution policy. 21 February 2016. Internet: http://www.devolutionplanning.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/DEVOLUTION%20POLICY%20DRAFT%20.pdf. Google Scholar

  • GoK/UNDP (2015): Turkana County investment plan 2016 – 2020. Nairobi: Government of Kenya, United Nations Development Programme. Google Scholar

  • Greiner, C. (2013): Guns, land, and votes: Cattle rustling and the politics of boundary (re)making in northern Kenya. In: African Affairs, 112(447), 216–237. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Guardian (2009): The first climate change conflicts. 23 June 2011. Internet: http://www.guardian.co.uk/journalismcompetition/professional-climate-change-conflicts/print. Google Scholar

  • Guardian (2013): Kenya water discovery brings hope for drought relief in rural north. 9 October 2015. Internet: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/sep/11/kenya-water-discovery-drought-relief. Google Scholar

  • Guardian (2015a): Ethiopia dam will turn Lake Turkana into ‘endless battlefield’, locals warn. 16 October 2015. Internet: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jan/13/ethiopia-gibe-iii-dam-kenya. Google Scholar

  • Guardian (2015b): Kenyans frustrated by drip, drip approach to search for water. 9 October 2015. Internet: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jan/15/kenya-water-turkana-aquifer-kakuma. Google Scholar

  • Hartmann, B. (2001): Will the circle be unbroken: A critique of the project on environment, population, and security. In: Peluso, N. L., & Watts, M. (Eds.), Violent environments, New York, Cornell University Press, pp. 39–62. Google Scholar

  • Homer-Dixon, T. (1994): Environmental scarcities and violent conflict – evidence from cases. In: International Security, 19(1), 5–40. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Homer-Dixon, T. (1999): Environmental scarcity and violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar

  • Homer-Dixon, T./Boutwell, J. H./Rathjens, G. W. (2011): Environmental change and violent conflict. In: Machlis, G. E., Hanson, T., Špirić, Z., & McKendry, J. E. (Eds.), Warfare ecology – a new synthesis for peace and security, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 18–45. Google Scholar

  • Homer-Dixon, T./Deligiannis, T. (2009): Environmental scarcities and civil violence. In: Brauch, H. G., Behera, N. C., Kameri-Mbote, P., Grin, J., Oswald Spring, Ú., Chourou, B. M., C.; , et al. (Eds.), Facing global environmental change, pp. 309–323. Google Scholar

  • Human Rights Watch (2015): There is no time left – climate change, environmental threats, and human rights in Turkana county, Kenya. Washington, DC: Human Rights Watch. Google Scholar

  • Hydroworld (2015): Power generation begins at 1,870-mw Gibe III hydroelectric project in Ethiopia. 18 December 2015. Internet: http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2015/10/power-generation-begins-at-1-870-mw-gibe-iii-hydroelectric-project-in-ethiopia.html. Google Scholar

  • Ide, T. (2015): Why do conflicts over scarce renewable resources turn violent? A qualitative comparative analysis. In: Global Environmental Change, 33(0), 61–70. Google Scholar

  • Ide, T./Schilling, J./Link, J. S. A./Scheffran, J./Ngaruiya, G./Weinzierl, T. (2014): On exposure, vulnerability and violence: Spatial distribution of risk factors for climate change and violent conflict across Kenya and Uganda. In: Political Geography, 43(1), 68–81. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Johannes, E. M./Zulu, L. C./Kalipeni, E. (2014): Oil discovery in Turkana County, Kenya: A source of conflict or development? In: African Geographical Review, 34(2), 1–23. Google Scholar

  • Kenya Citizen TV (2011): Drought situation in Turkana. 21 December 2015. Internet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGVD3jqvQ70. Google Scholar

  • Kenya Open Data (2011a): Poverty. 13 March 2015. Internet: https://www.opendata.go.ke/Poverty/Poverty-Rate-by-District/i5bp-z9aq. Google Scholar

  • Kenya Open Data (2011b): School attendance. 13 March 2015. Internet: https://www.opendata.go.ke/Counties/2009-Census-Vol-II-Table-1-Population-3-years-and-/jkkd-epmw. Google Scholar

  • Kenya School of Governance (2015): Building public participation in Kenya’s devolved government. 21 February 2016. Internet: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/21663/94497.pdf?sequence=1. Google Scholar

  • Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (2013): Handbook on devolution. Nairobi: Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists. Google Scholar

  • KNBS (2010): 2009 Kenya population and housing census. Nairobi: KNBS. Google Scholar

  • LAPSSET (2015a): Kenya and Uganda strike deal on route for sh400bn oil pipeline. 9 October 2015. Internet: http://www.lapsset.go.ke/newscast/pages#. Google Scholar

  • LAPSSET (2015b): Status report on LAPSSET projects. 6 January 2016. Internet: http://www.lapsset.go.ke/newscast/pages#. Google Scholar

  • LCDA (2015): LAPSSET corridor and new Lamu port feasibility study and master plans report. Nairobi: LAPSSET Corridor Development Authority. Google Scholar

  • Le Billion, P. (2001): The political ecology of war: Natural resources and armed conflicts. In: Political Geography, 20(5), 561–584. Google Scholar

  • Lugaria, P. (2015): KPA admits lack of funds for Lamu port. 4 January 2016. Internet: http://www.constructionkenya.com/3387/kenya-lack-funds-for-lamu-port/. Google Scholar

  • McCabe, J. T. (2004): Cattle bring us to our enemies: Turkana ecology, politics, and raiding in a disequilibrium system. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Google Scholar

  • McSweeney, C./New, M./Lizcano, G. (2012): UNDP climate change country profiles – Kenya. 3 March 2015. Internet: http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/research/climate/projects/undp-cp/UNDP_reports/Kenya/Kenya.lowres.report.pdf. Google Scholar

  • Mkutu Agade, K./Marani, M./Ruteere, M. (2014): Securing the counties – options for security after devolution in Kenya. Nairobi: Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies. Google Scholar

  • Mkutu, K. A. (2014): ‘Ungoverned space’ and the oil find in Turkana, Kenya. In: The Round Table, 103(5), 497–515. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Mkutu, K. A. (2015): Changes and challenges of the Kenya police reserve: The case of Turkana county. In: African Studies Review, 58(1), 199–222. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Mkutu, K. A./Wandera, G. (2015): Conflict, security and the extractive industries in Turkana, Kenya. Nairobi: United States International University-Africa, Kenya School of Government. Google Scholar

  • Morrison, K. M. (2009): Oil, nontax revenue, and the redistributional foundations of regime stability. In: International Organization, 63(1), 107–138. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Nairobi News (2015): Nairobi and Turkana to get biggest share of county cash. 9 October 2015. Internet: http://nairobinews.nation.co.ke/nairobi-and-turkana-to-get-biggest-share-of-county-cash/. Google Scholar

  • Nation (2013): Turkana MP under probe over riots against Tullow oil firm. 26 November 2013. Internet: http://mobile.nation.co.ke/News/MP-under-probe-over-Turkana-riots/-/1950946/2053848/-/format/xhtml/-/pd78haz/-/index.html. Google Scholar

  • National Council for Law Reporting (2012): Land act. Nairobi: National Council for Law Reporting. Google Scholar

  • Oil News Kenya (2015): Kenya, Uganda to commence oil production in mid 2020 – Tullow oil. 7 January 2016. Internet: http://www.oilnewskenya.com/kenya-uganda-commence-production-mid-2020-tullow-oil/. Google Scholar

  • Opiata, O. (2013): Spotlight on the LAPSSET project. 9 November 2015. Internet: http://www.hakijamii.com/publications/Lapsset.pdf. Google Scholar

  • Opiyo, F./Wasonga, O./Nyangito, M. (2014): Measuring household vulnerability to climate-induced stresses in pastoral rangelands of Kenya: Implications for resilience programming. In: Pastoralism, 4(1), 10. Google Scholar

  • Opiyo, F./Wasonga, O./Nyangito, M./Schilling, J./Munang, R. (2015): Drought adaptation and coping strategies among the Turkana pastoralists of northern Kenya. In: International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 6(3), 295–309. Google Scholar

  • Peluso, N. L./Watts, M. (Eds.). (2001): Violent environments. Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press. Google Scholar

  • Radar Technologies International (2013): Advanced survey of groundwater resources of northern and central Turkana County, Kenya. 9 October 2015. Internet: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51fb69b8e4b0f037266dae95/t/522f8a5de4b06bf96fa56dbd/1378847325889/Turkana+Survey+Report.pdf. Google Scholar

  • Radar Technologies International (2015): RTI’s list of accomplishment. 9 October 2015. Internet: http://www.rtiexploration.com/. Google Scholar

  • Reuters (2015): First test shows Kenya’s huge water find too salty to drink. 22 December 2015. Internet: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-water-aquifer-idUSKBN0LV1W720150227. Google Scholar

  • Scheffran, J./Brzoska, M./Kominek, J./Link, P. M./Schilling, J. (2012): Climate change and violent conflict. In: Science, 336(6083), 869–871. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schilling, J./Akuno, M./Scheffran, J./Weinzierl, T. (2014): On raids and relations: Climate change, pastoral conflict and adaptation in northwestern Kenya In: Bronkhorst, S., & Bob, U. (Eds.), Climate change and conflict: Where to for conflict sensitive climate adaptation in Africa?. Berlin, Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag, pp. 241–268. Google Scholar

  • Schilling, J./Locham, R./Weinzierl, T./Vivekananda, J./Scheffran, J. (2015): The nexus of oil, conflict, and climate change vulnerability of pastoral communities in northwest Kenya. In: Earth System Dynamics, 6(2), 703–717. Google Scholar

  • Schilling, J./Opiyo, F./Scheffran, J. (2012): Raiding pastoral livelihoods: Motives and effects of violent conflict in north-western Kenya. In: Pastoralism, 2(25), 1–16. Google Scholar

  • Shackleton, S./Campbell, B. (2001): Devolution in natural resources management: Institutional arrangements and power shifts; a synthesis of case studies from southern Africa. Grahamstown, South Africa: CSIR. Google Scholar

  • Standard (2015): Kenya could export crude oil next year. 1 April 2015. Internet: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/article/2000152394/kenya-could-export-crude-oil-next-year. Google Scholar

  • Star (2012): Turkana wants 25 % share of oil wealth. 2 November 2012. Internet: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/article-14618/turkana-wants-25-share-oil-wealth. Google Scholar

  • Tullow (2014a): Operational update – Kenya. 14 April 2014. Internet: http://www.tullowoil.com/index.asp?pageid=137&category=&year=Latest&month=&tags=84&newsid=878. Google Scholar

  • Tullow (2014b): Tullow in Kenya. 1 April 2015. Internet: http://www.tullowoil.com/Media/docs/default-source/operations/tullow-kenya-profile.pdf?sfvrsn=0. Google Scholar

  • Tully, A. (2016): Washington to help Kenya raise $18 billion for oil pipeline. 21 January 2016. Internet: http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Washington-To-Help-Kenya-Raise-18-Billion-For-Oil-Pipeline.html. Google Scholar

  • UNDP (2015): Devolution and accountability. 13 February 2016. Internet: http://cccm.iom.org.bd/file/pdf/34.pdf. Google Scholar

  • UNEP (2015): Natural resources and conflict – a guide for mediation practitioners. New York: UNEP. Google Scholar

  • Vasquez, P. I. (2013): Kenya at a crossroads: Hopes and fears concerning the development of oil and gas reserves. In: International Development Policy Analysis, 4(3), 1–23. Google Scholar

  • Velpuri, N. M./Senay, G. B. (2012): Assessing the potential hydrological impact of the Gibe III Dam on Lake Turkana water level using multi-source satellite data. In: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 16(10), 3561–3578. Google Scholar

  • Voice of America (2015): Tests show Kenya’s water unfit for consumption. 25 November 2015. Internet: http://www.voanews.com/content/kenya-turkana-water-unfit-for-human-consumption/2674350.html. Google Scholar

  • World Bank (2015): Kenya’s devolution. 9 October 2015. Internet: http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/kenya/brief/kenyas-devolution. Google Scholar

  • Yongo, E. O./Abila, R. O./Lwenya, C. (2010): Emerging resource use conflicts between Kenyan fishermen, pastoralists and tribesmen of Lake Turkana. In: Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management, 13(1), 28–34. Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2016-06-15

Published in Print: 2016-06-01

Citation Information: Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, Volume 60, Issue 1-2, Pages 57–71, ISSN (Online) 2365-7693, ISSN (Print) 0044-3751, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zfw-2016-0001.

Export Citation

© 2016 by De Gruyter.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Natasha J. Gownaris, Ellen K. Pikitch, Josephine Y. Aller, Les S. Kaufman, Jeppe Kolding, Kamazima M.M. Lwiza, Kevin O. Obiero, William O. Ojwang, John O. Malala, and Konstantine J. Rountos
Ecohydrology, 2017, Volume 10, Number 1, Page e1769

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in