Communities living in western Kenya are likely to be particularly vulnerable to the dry spell that has persisted since late last year, even as attention is focused on more arid parts of Kenya.

A study published by the Society for International Development (SID) and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics found that six counties, largely located in the north and west of the country, had at least half the employed people working on family land holdings.

They were Nyamira (53 per cent), Busia (52 per cent), Kisii (51 per cent) and Bungoma, Turkana and Nyandarua (all 50 per cent). Five constituencies have more than two-thirds of their labour force working on family land.

Sirisia Constituency and Mount Elgon in Bungoma County had the largest share of individuals working on family land holdings at 69 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively. Loima in Turkana County (68 per cent), Kuria East in Migori (67 per cent) and Ndhiwa in Homa Bay (67 per cent) rounded up the top five.


The report notes that working on family landholdings is associated with reliance on uneven weather and a lack of certainty in earnings. The 2013 study, titled Exploring Kenya’s Inequality, is the most recent on inequality and poverty available.

It gives an indication of communities that are likely to be harshly affected by the dry conditions that have prevailed in Kenya since late last year, which may not be in the public eye because they are not located in arid or semi-arid regions.

In many cases, family lands are small in size and are under pressure to feed ever growing families. The high proportions of people working on family land in these counties give cause of concern, given that weather warnings show the short rains appear to have failed.

According to the national drought early warning bulletin for January 2017, no county has recorded normal rainfall during the short rainy season. The warning also says the short rains were too brief to significantly influence improvement in crop and animal production and summarises effects on particular counties.

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