TURKANA County lies in the 80% of Kenyas landmass that is classed as drylands, where most inhabitants eke out a living raising livestock cows, goats, sheep, and camels.
Pastoralism is a way of life that is defined by environmental variation, with herders constantly moving their flocks across vast distances to the best available pasture and water points.
Coping with the occasional failure of seasonal rains has always been a feature of this arduous livelihood. But as IRIN discovered on a just-concluded reporting mission to Turkana, the drought which for months has ravaged much of east Africa, and which the Kenyan government has termed a national emergency, is the worst in living memory.
One local official said half a million head of livestock had succumbed to thirst, hunger, and disease, leaving many herders destitute. Much of the human population has fallen into crisis levels of food insecurity.
The climate shock is all the more severe because of the Kenyan drylands chronic poverty, and the absence of basic services that would have served as a cushion. And while grassland tends to recover from droughts once rains return, this one is so severe and prolonged that there are fears that some pasture has been scorched beyond repair.