Turkana People

The Turkana people of the Omo-Turkana Basin live surrounding Lake Turkana. This blog explores their livelihoods and the changes they are facing.

Turkana People

Nate Olson

The Turkana people of the Omo-Turkana Basin live surrounding Lake Turkana. As of 2004 it was estimated by foreign scholars that there were around 300,000 Turkana people. This is based off of older numbers. In the 2009 census, the Kenyan government estimated that there were around 825,000 Turkana people. The vastly growing population of the Turkana has created a lot of change in the land.

The Turkana people reside mostly in Kenya, but some portions of the tribe are found in neighboring countries surrounding the lake. The majority of Turkana people rely on pastoralism for subsistence, but those who live directly around the lake fish.

The climate in this area is very hot and dry, but the increasing population of the Turkana continues to require more land for pastoral practices. This has put a strain on the land already.

The food security of the pastoralists and the fishers are threatened by the changes to this region.

The Kenyan government has approved oil drilling actions in the region. This project will take away grazing land from the Turkana people. The land use changes have created tension between the people of this region. There has been an increase in cattle raids among the around this region (Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan). This is a result of the loss of land by many Turkana people through the oil development that is happening in the region.

The hydrology changes that have and will result from the continued operation of the Gibe III and Kuraz Sugar Projects have had significant effects on the Turkana fishers. The dam has reduced the fluctuation levels of the lake, prevents fish populations from restoring in the breeding grounds that are accessible only during flood season. In addition, the KSP and Gibe III will affect the chemistry of the lake through the use of fertilizers and altered sediment intake due to the change of river flow. These actions could pose dangerous threats to fish populations, but the extent of these effects is unknown. Turkana fishermen have reported lower fish catches since the operation of the Gibe III.


Fay, R. (2010). Turkana: Ethnic group of Kenya. In: H.L. Gates & K.A. Appiah (2010). Encyclopedia of Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

McCabe, J. T. (2004;2010;). Cattle bring us to our enemies: Turkana ecology, politics, and raiding in a disequilibrium system. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. doi:10.3998/mpub.23477

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