Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

J. Terrence McCabe

Second Advisor

Maxwell Boykoff

Third Advisor

Lisa Dilling

Fourth Advisor

Joel Hartter

Fifth Advisor

Myles Osborne


Livelihoods must adapt to global and local changes in order to maintain livelihood resilience. Agroforestry is one potential livelihood activity which can help farmers adapt to changes and shocks. This dissertation explores if and how agroforestry is building livelihood resilience in the face of environmental and socio-economic shocks in Isiolo County, Kenya. Drawing from resilience thinking and political ecology, this research focused on general livelihood resilience, along with livelihood resilience to floods, droughts, violent conflict, and wildlife crop raiding.

Field work was conducted in 2014-2015 in the communities of Burat and Kinna. A mixed methods research approach was used including archival research, collection of ecological data, key informant interviews, household surveys, and qualitative case study households. The sustainable livelihoods approach was used to develop indicators of resilience, organized by the five capital assets (physical, human, natural, social, and financial). A total of 339 quantitative household surveys were conducted in addition to 20 qualitative household case studies, which were interviewed three times throughout the year. The qualitative household case study interviews were coded using QSR NVivo 10, and the quantitative data was analyzed with Microsoft Excel and Stata IC13.

Results suggest that agroforestry can help build livelihood resilience both in general and to flood, drought, violent conflict, and wildlife crop raiding. The major benefits were shade and fruit for sales and household consumption; the main tree species included mango, papaya, banana, guava, and neem. The average of all five livelihood capital scores was 10% higher for households practicing agroforestry. During floods and droughts agroforestry helped to build livelihood resilience by providing livelihood and environmental benefits. The majority of survey respondents listed agroforestry as very important during drought (55% of respondents) and flood (60%). Burat experienced a violent conflict in 2012. The results show how agroforestry helped build livelihood resilience during and after this conflict by providing a source of income, food, places to hide from attackers, and construction materials for rebuilding homes. When exploring livelihood resilience to wildlife crop raiding, 56% of survey households reported that agroforestry provided income when other crops were damaged by wildlife.