Pastoralism in the Time of Oil: Youth Perspectives on the Oil Industry and the Future of Pastoralism in Turkana, Kenya

The central aim of this paper is to discuss how oil exploration and development is creating disjunctures in the livelihood desires and strategies of youth from pastoralist households in Turkana, northern Kenya. It specifically considers how the newfound presence of oil exploration companies is altering the nature and type of livelihoods that youth desire in Turkana. While pastoralism remains the dominant livelihood strategy in the region – practiced by over 70% of the population – the presence of an emerging oil industry is leading many Turkana youth to imagine futures involving livelihoods other than pastoralism. These futures are characterized by a move away from subsistence livelihoods towards wage-labour and market-driven production. Drawing from key informant interviews, focus group discussions and field observations, our findings contribute to current debates about the interplay between extractive industries and pastoralist livelihoods in Turkana. Ultimately, we argue that while youth in Turkana are trying to take advantage of new opportunities being created by the oil industry, theses opportunities could also exacerbate existing inequalities and foster new forms of vulnerability.