Climate change, irrigation in Ethiopia threat to livelihoods in Turkana – HRW report

What you need to know:

  • HRW has called for urgent climate change policies to protect the marginalised communities.
  • Rising temperatures and irrigation in Ethiopia will reduce water levels in Lake Turkana.

Climate change and regional development projects are threatening the health and livelihood of indigenous peoples in Turkana, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stated.

The report indicates that water and pasture shortage will persist in Turkana County.

It states that rising temperatures and irrigation in Ethiopia will lead to the reduction of water levels in Lake Turkana.

“Lake Turkana is in danger of disappearing, and the health and livelihood of the indigenous peoples of the region along with it,” HRW Director James Amon said.

The report indicates that hydroelectric power projects and irrigated sugar plantations in Ethiopia’s lower Omo River valley threaten to reduce the water levels in Lake Turkana.

According to Mr Amon, some experts predict that the lake may recede into two small pools and this will affect the lives of thousands who depend on water and fish from the lake.

Rising temperatures in the region have also worsened the shortage of water and pasture and this, according to the report, will increase conflicts due to decreased grazing fields.

“Between 1967 and 2012, maximum and minimum average temperatures in Turkana County, in Kenya’s northwest corner near the border with Ethiopia, rose by between 2 and 3°C according to data from the meteorological station in Turkana,” the report states.


The 96-page report, There Is No Time Left: Climate Change, Environmental Threats, and Human Rights in Turkana County, Kenya, highlights the increased burden facing the Kenyan government to ensure access to water, food, health, and security in the Turkana region.

A majority of the residents are pastoralists, who depend on livestock and fish from Lake Turkana and are faced with cyclical droughts.

HRW has called for urgent climate change policies to protect the marginalised communities.

“The struggles of the Turkana people are an important reminder for governments around the world that human rights should be a central element of the future Paris climate change agreement.

“The Kenyan government should develop climate change policies that protect the rights of all its populations, including the most marginalised,” Mr Amon said.

The report was released Thursday, a few days before climate change negotiations commence in Bonn, Germany, from October 19 to 23.

The talks will see governments discuss commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to limit future increases in global temperatures.

The Bonn meeting is the last negotiating session before the summit at the end of 2015 in Paris, where it is expected that a new international agreement on climate change will be adopted.