Turkana pastoralists at risk: Why education matters

Camel Rearing in Rural Turkana, Kenya
Photo taken by research team

A research project conducted among the Turkana pastoralists in Kenya has produced a briefing note and educational booklet highlighting the importance of education as a means of earning a livelihood.

Turkana pastoralists in north-western Kenya have always depended on their livestock for their livelihoods. It remains at the centre of the lives of these communities, as it forms the basis of their diet and of their income. It is also an important element of cultural heritage for Turkana pastoralists because it is linked to traditional practices including the use of animals for payment of dowry (bride price) during marriages, for food during ceremonies and celebrations, for kinship support (e.g. during sickness, death) and for prestige and social status.

At the same time, Turkana pastoralists are exposed to increasing risks such as drought and livestock diseases, in an environment of limited infrastructure and low educational engagement, leading to poverty and inequality. Due to their overreliance on livestock, these risks have adverse effects on their livelihoods, making education an important investment for improving livelihoods.

Briefing note

The Briefing Note, 'Turkana pastoralists at risk: Why education matters', shows that Turkana pastoralists are increasingly embracing education as a means of earning a livelihood. It is based on fieldwork conducted in three sites (Kangakipur, Loperot and Napusumoru) located in Southern parts of Turkana and involved household surveys, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and field observations.

It identifies perceived obstacles to education (linked to sociocultural characteristics of the Turkana pastoralists, as well as external factors that are beyond their control, e.g. infrastructure and physical environment). It also highlights expected benefits from education as a source of employment and income, diversification of livelihoods, social status advancement etc).

Educational booklet

The educational booklet 'Voices of the Turkana People' is a collection of local narratives, presenting voices of Turkana pastoralists living in these local communities. The views expressed are those conveyed by local people themselves.

The booklet will become widely distributed in local primary schools to initiate debate on the cultural and economic characteristics of these communities and how these interact with gender issues, future prospects for the young populations, environmental and educational challenges, ability to cope with future risks etc.

Every subsection has a list of Key points for reflection/discussion, which teachers will use to initiate a critical reflective debate on these matters.

About the research

These documents are the product of a research study (2018-20) in Turkana, Kenya, funded by the Scottish Funding Council as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), and led by Dr Konstantinos Angelopoulos and Dr Rebecca Mancy at the University of Glasgow (UK), Dr Dorice Agol from Friends of Lake Turkana, Kenya, Dr Spyridon Lazarakis at the University of Lancaster (UK) and Dr Elissaios Papyrakis at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands).

More information

For  more information, please contact Elissaios Papyrakis