News from the field: Accounts from the Daasanach

Two members of the LICCI team (Victoria Reyes-García and André B. Junqueira) have recently returned from Kenya, where they have started working with the Daasanach people. The Daasanach are a semi-nomadic agro-pastoralist group that inhabit arid areas in southern Ethiopia and northeastern Kenya, in the surroundings of the Omo River Delta and the Lake Turkana – a remote area known as the ‘Craddle of Humankind’, where the earliest signs of our species have been found.

Counting on the invaluable support from colleagues from the University of Helsinki (Mar Cabeza and Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares) and in close collaboration with the Daasanach community member Paul Lokono Haira (Mount Kenya University), Viki and André were authorized by Daasanach elders to visit villages in the surroundings of the town of Ileret. The visit has helped to improve the methods developed by the LICCI core team to document local indicators of climate change impacts. The Daasanach people have kindly shared not only their detailed perceptions of change in climatic, physical, and biological systems, but also their holistic understanding of socio-economic and environmental drivers of these changes, and how they have been coping with these challenging conditions. We learned that, in recent decades, the Daasanach have been facing numerous new challenges derived from the complex interplay between rapidly changing climatic conditions and socio-economic and political changes that include the construction of dams along the Omo River and restrictions on mobility and resource use brought about by political boundaries and conservation areas (i.e., the Sibiloi National Park).

The information the Daasanach have shared with us has enlightened our understanding of the complex interplays between climate and other drivers of change, and it will be part of the global analysis that will be performed by the LICCI project. The LICCI team is discussing with the Daasanach some possibilities for continuing this collaboration and ways in which this information can be used to help their community. We are deeply grateful for the Daasanach for their warm welcome and for willing to share with us their knowledge and experiences. Tagilé!

‘I enjoyed very much taking part in this project. I have interacted with my own community and learned many things about my people that I did not know before. Also, through the interaction with the LICCI team, I also learned how to conduct a research project in the future. This type of project is important as it shows how people are dealing and adapting to changes in climate. Viki and André are friendly and a wonderful research team to work with. Thanks a lot. God bless you.’  Paul Lokono Haira, Daasanach