Over 80% of Kenya land mass fall under arid and semi arid lands (ASAL), which are prone to frequent droughts. About one third of Kenya’s population lives in the ASAL and largely depends on rain-fed agriculture as their source of livelihoods. However, most of the agricultural activities are constrained by recurrent droughts. To analyse the effects of droughts on rural livelihoods, this study was carried out in the semi arid Central and Mukogodo divisions of Laikipia district, Kenya for the period between 1975 and 2008 . Standardized precipitation index was used to quantify drought severity. Rural livelihood data was obtained through interviews and questionnaires. Correlation coefficient was used to test the association between drought severity and crop production and livestock losses. Four categories of drought namely mild, moderate, severe and extreme droughts were identified. Over 70% of the droughts in the study area occurred in runs. The study established that as drought increased in severity more rural livelihood were disrupted causing high dependency of relief aid. As a result, farmers ventured into charcoal burning, illegal logging and sand harvesting as alternative livelihoods sources exacerbating desertification. The study concludes that farmers’ resilience to drought lessens with increase drought severity .
Key words: Kenya, Laikipia district, drought severity index, droughts, rural livelihoods.
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