The Lake Turkana Basin is located in the arid North-West of Kenya. Lake Turkana itself is bordering Ethiopia and three counties in Kenya: Turkana, Marsabit and Samburu. It is one of the most saline lakes in East Africa and the largest desert lake in the world. The main inflow to the lake comes from the Omo-Gibe Basin in Ethiopia. Developments in the upper catchments impact lake levels and fishing stocks. The lake is crucial for the fishing industry, tourism and biodiversity. Because of the salinity of the lake, livelihoods in this extremely arid part of Kenya depend mainly on groundwater and the very few rivers.

Rapid development, driven by oil exploration, infrastructure projects, dams and a growing fishing industry affect water resources. Furthermore the area has seen an influx of people from Ethiopia, South Sudan and other parts of Kenya, who compete with the local population for the already scarce water resources. These developments take place in a context of high fragility with a history of local intercommunal conflicts. Due to its remote location from central governments, the basin faces institutional, logistical and capacity constraints. The diverse communities living in the region rely on livelihoods like pastoralism, that heavily depend on ecosystem services and are thus vulnerable to changes in water and ecosystems.

Lake Turkana. Source: NASA 

WPS involvement 

In 2021, the Water, Peace & Security (WPS) partnership undertook a feasibility and scoping exercise to understand opportunities to engage in the Omo-Gibe-Turkana Basin. We conducted consultative interviews with government representatives, civil society organizations (CSO), non-governmental organizations and international stakeholders working in the region. Based on this consultative process, WPS developed separate project plans for engagement with Kenya and Ethiopia.

In Kenya, WPS will work in Turkana County (Northern and Central Turkana), focusing on the Lake Turkana Basin area. With various partners, we helped to establish a common understanding of the scope of work and to identify the added value of WPS to avoid duplication and develop collaborative engagement. This resulted in a draft engagement plan. In July 2021, we held calls with various stakeholders, including government authorities, local CSOs and various national and international organizations working in Turkana, to further assess and ensure the project addresses their needs, priorities and concerns. In early September 2021, WPS organized an inception workshop in Turkana involving local stakeholders who provided crucial feedback to the draft engagement plan, resulting in a final workplan for 2021 and 2022.

"Any development interventions including water resource management programmes need to ensure Gender and Conflict sensitivity are well-integrated in its approaches. At WPS, we take proactive and intentional steps to integrate gender and conflict sensitivity in our work to better understand the context and local needs and act upon the understanding to maximise opportunities for peace.”

- Rabindra Gurung, Country Director Kenya, International Alert

Community meeting Turkana
Community meeting in Kakwanyang village in Turkana Central. Quote of a participant: “Water quantities in the heavens have reduced. It does not rain anymore, it is only dripping” (Source: Rolien Sasse, 2021)

Next steps 

In December 2021, WPS started a participatory water-related conflict analysis in Turkana Central and Turkana North, to develop a deep understanding of conflict dynamics and stakeholder roles. The exercise actively involves key stakeholders from the area to enhance a common understanding of and dialogue around conflict dynamics. The analysis is expected to be finished in February 2022 and will be used to design further WPS interventions to address water-related conflicts in the Turkana Basin (2022-2024). WPS partners International Alert, Wetlands International and IHE Delft Institute for Water Education implement the project in Kenya.


Digging wells in Turkana county
Water Vendors in Kalokol,  Turkana county, are digging shallow wells for drinking water in a dry riverbed.  This water is for commercial use by water vendors, locally known as Nakana– who have a monopoly and prevent others from fetching water in the shallow wells there. These vendors truck the water to Kalokol town, where it is sold at an exorbitant price. This is causing tensions with communities, who want to dig their own wells and fetch water for use at home.” (Source: Robbert van den Berg, 2021)



Daisy Kosgei
Senior Project Officer Kenya | International Alert
George Grayson
Interim Head of Natural Resource Management and Climate Change | International Alert