© IOM, 2011 – MKE0502

Kenya has always been prone to extreme weather conditions, which are likely to become exacerbated by climate change. This is a reason of high concern, particularly because 84% per cent of the Kenyan landmass areas classified as arid or semi-arid land (ASAL), which means that large areas of the country are exposed to the threat of water scarcity in relation to changing precipitation and temperature patterns (Nyaoro, Schade and Schmidt-Verkerk, forthcoming). More frequent and more extreme droughts and related losses of soil fertility are the most important consequences. Some parts of the country are also prone to the risk of floods, particularly riverine floods, such as in Tana River county and Garissa county (Nyaoro, Schade and Schmidt-Verkerk, forthcoming). In light of this environmental scenario, the need of people to leave areas in danger of being affected by extreme events is increasing (Melde, 2015; Nyaoro, Schade and Schmidt-Verkerk, forthcoming).


 Basic Facts

 Geographic location

 Central Eastern Africa


 46 million (2015)


 580,367 km²

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita  PPP

 USD 2,954.1 (2014)

 Income level

 Lower Middle Income

 Human Development Index (HDI) Rank

 147th out of 187

Population, 2011, based on data from the United Nations Population Fund's The State of World Population 2011.
Area refers to Total Surface Area Data from UNSD Demographic Statistics 2008, United Nations Statistics Division.
Gross Domestic Product (Purchasing Power Parity). The sum value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year valued at prices prevailing in the United States of America. GDP Per Capita (PPP), 2010, is Gross Domestic Product on a Purchasing Power Parity basis divided by the population. GDP Per Capita PPP based on data from the World Bank's World Development Indicators. Data are in current international dollars.
Income level. Income levels show the income category of a particular country as identified by the World Bank. For more information on income level, including the methodology used by the World Bank, please visit the World Bank’s Country Classification.
Human Development Index (HDI). A composite indicator that measures development and human progress based on health, education, and purchasing power. The higher the HDI rank, the higher a country's level of development. HDI Rank, 2011, based on data from the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report 2011.


 Migration patterns

 Net Migration Rate


 Total Migrant Stock


 Women as a Percentage of Immigrants


 Number of Refugees


 Number of Internally Displaced Persons  (IDPs)

 *1,368 **220,177 ***309,200


 Urbanization rate

 1.67% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

 Remittances (in-flows)

 2.4% of the GPA (2013)

 Internal remittances

  • Remittances from both international and internal migrants top-up household income, diversify income sources, and thus insure against risks associated with income loss from the dominant livelihood source. They are thus useful sources of support for households during crop failures, livestock deaths and risks associated with environmental change (Eriksen et al., 2005).
  • There exists evidence that international migration is usually pursued by better-off households, whereas poorer households can usually not afford it but may engage in internal migration (Nyaoro, Schade and Schmidt-Verkerk, forthcoming).
  • The World Bank reports that internal remittances are largely spend for food (29.7%), educational purposes (20.5%) and business (13.0%), whereas remittances from within Africa are mainly used for constructing houses (27.5%), education (22.9%) and then food (14.5%). In contrast, remittances from outside Africa are spend more diverse but predominantly for (productive) investment into land, livestock, agricultural equipment and agriculture more generally (24.2%), followed by food (12.8%) and then house construction (11.2%) (World Bank, 2011: 64).

Net Migration Rate, 2010-2015. The difference between the number of persons entering and leaving a country during the year per 1,000 persons. An excess of persons entering the country is referred to as net immigration (e.g., 3.56 migrants/1,000 population); an excess of persons leaving the country is referred to as net emigration (e.g., -9.26 migrants/1,000 population). Net Migration Rate based on data from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division's World Population Prospects: the 2015 Revision Population Database.
Total Migrant Stock. Estimated number of international migrants at mid-year, 2013.  United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division's World Population Prospects: the 2013 Revision Population Database.
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division's World Population Prospects: the 2008 Revision Population Database.
Number of RefugeesUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2014. *Residing in country/ **Originating from country
Number of IDPsInternal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2015. *IDPs newly displaced by disasters / **IDPs newly displaced by conflict and violence / *** IDPs displaced by conflict and violence (protracted displacement).
Urbanization rate: Average Annual Rate of Change of the Urban Population by Major Area, Region and Country, 1950-2050 (per cent) as per the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2014). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision.
Remittances in-flows. World Bank staff calculation based on data from IMF Balance of Payments Statistics database and data releases from central banks, national statistical agencies, and World Bank country desks.


 Environmental Facts and Changes

 Environmental performance index

 140th out of 178 countries

 Long-term climate change risk  index

 70th out of 159 countries

 23rd out of 159 countries

 World risk index

 75th out of 171 countries

 ND-GAIN country index

 154th out of 180 countries

 Significant disaster events

 Type                      Date                Total deaths

 Drought              00-00-1991

 Drought              00-01-1997

 Drought              00-12-1999         

 Drought              00-07-2004

 Drought              00-12-2005

 Flood                  23-10-2006                114

 Drought              00-07-2008

Drought               00-01-2011

 Drought              00-01-2014

 Environmental change

  • Slow-onset eventas and rapid on-set disasters
  • Sea-level rise
  • Increasing temperatures
  • Salinization
  • Drought desertification
  • Land and forest degradation
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Glacial Retreat
  • Coastal erosion
  • Floods
  • Landslides
  • Floods and drought have always been very common in Kenya. These are due to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) phenomena. The IOD is related to surface sea temperature anomalies of the Indian Ocean and accordingly changing evaporation patterns and winds: IOD and ENSO often coincide with each other (Nyaoro, Schade and Schmidt-Verkerk, forthcoming).
  • The increase in weather anomalies and their intensity that is regarded as the most obvious manifestation of global climate change in Kenya (UNEP, 2009).

 Climate change impacts

  • Livelihoods and ecosystems
  • The fact that extreme weather events are increasing in intensity and frequency makes it hard for farmers to recover and pastoralists to rebuild their livestock after droughts.
  • About 95 per cent of agricultural production in Kenya depends on rainfall and much of the food production is assured by small scale farmers engaged in subsistence farming (UNDP, 2012): for this reason, communities or individuals with limited resources face seasonal crop failures, income losses and livelihood collapses as a consequence of changing temperature and precipitation patterns (Nyaoro, Schade and Schmidt-Verkerk, forthcoming).
  • Loss of soil fertility and land degradation has led to forest encroachment around Mt. Kenya, Mau water tower and Mt. Elgon areas; land degradation, shrinking agricultural land and urban development has led to encroachment of forest reserves and other protected areas (Nyaoro, Schade and Schmidt-Verkerk, forthcoming).

Environmental performance index. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems (2014).
Long-term climate change risk index. The Global Climate Risk Index 2015 analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.). The most recent data available – from 2013 and 1994–2013 – were taken into account.
World risk index. The WorldRiskIndex developed by UNU-EHS describes the disaster risk for various countries and regions. The main focus of the report is the threat from, or exposure to key natural hazards and the rise in sea level caused by climate change, as well as social vulnerability in the form of the population’s susceptibility and their capacity for coping and adaptation.
ND-GAIN Country Index. A project of the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), summarizes a country's vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges in combination with its readiness to improve resilience.
Significant disaster events. Based on EM-DAT, which contains essential core data on the occurance and effects of over 18,000 mass disasters in the world from 1900 to present.


Adaptation policies
 National Laws and Policies, Regional frameworks

 Climate Change and Adaptation  Policies

 Inclusion of Migration

2002 - First National Communication

  • Displacement due to flooding and drought, as well as rural‒urban migration recognized as significant problems that the country faces (Government of Kenya, 2002).

2010 - National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS)


  • Population displacement and migration from climate disaster (drought and projected sea-level rise) prone areas expected to increase; 
  • provision of adequate services in poor urban neighbourhoods indicated as one adaptation strategies that could facilitate rural to urban movement;
  • migration to urban areas recognized as a potential strategy for pastoralist communities to deal with climate change effects on their livelihoods (Government of Kenya, 2010:41, 56).

2013 - National Climate Change Action Plan 2013-2017

  • The necessity of capacity-building to manage climate risks in urban centres and at the places of origin is stressed as well as more research on migration as a coping mechanism to successfully deal with climate variability (Government of Kenya, 2013:38).

2015 - National Policy for Sustainable Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands

  • The position of the Government that mobility is a rational and sophisticated response to environmental conditions in arid and semi-arid lands is recognized;
  • the need to support the existing pastoralist lifestyle as pastoralism contributes to the food security, environmental stewardship, and economic growth is also highlighted  (Government of Kenya, 2015:8, 45).



IOM Country Specialists

  • Heather Komenda - Programme Coordinator, Programmes Support Unit
  • Paul Gitonga – MECLEP Focal Point Kenya


For more information on IOM’s activities in Kenya:


Key Documents / References

Eriksen, S., K. Brown and P. M. Kelly
2005  The dynamics of vulnerability: locating coping strategies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Geographical Journal, Vol. 171, No. 4, December 2005, 171(4):  287–305.

Government of Kenya
2002  First National Communication of Kenya. Available from docs/natc/kennc1.pdf
2010  Kenya’s National Climate Change Response Strategy. Available from wp-content/uploads/2012/04/NationalClimate-Change-Response-Strategy_ April-2010.pdf.
2013  Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan (2013–2017) (NCCAP). Available from http:// Kenya-National-Climate-Change-ActionPlan.pdf.
2015  National Policy for the Sustainable Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands. Available from index.php/policies-regulations/item/501- national-policy-for-the-sustainabledevelopment-of-northern-kenya-and-otherarid-lands#.Vip8i36rTIU

Kelpsaite, L. and E. Mach
2015  Migration as adaptation? A comparative analysis of policy frameworks on the environment and development in MECLEP countries. Migration, Environment and Climate Change Policy Brief Series, Volume 1, Issue 5. IOM, Geneva. Available from

Melde, S.
2015  The poor pay the price: New research insights on human mobility, climate change and disasters. Migration, Environment and Climate Change Policy Brief Series, Volume 1, Issue 9. IOM, Geneva. Available from

Nyaoro, D., J. Schade and K. Schmidt-Verkerk
(forthcoming)  Assessing the Evidence: Migration, Environment and Climate Change in Kenya. IOM, Geneva.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
2013a  Combating Desertification in Kenya: Emerging Lessons from Empowering Local Communities. UNDP, Nairobi, Kenya. Available from 
2013b  Kenya Nnatural Ddisaster Pprofile. Available from
 2014  Human Development Reports. Available from

World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development)
2011  Leveraging Migration for Africa: Remittances, Skills, and Investments. World Bank, Washington DC. Available from