This paper aims to fill gaps in drought coping strategies by examining the human experience of coping with drought through narratives from farmers in Burat and Kinna, Isiolo County, Kenya. This paper highlights (1) their perceived impacts of drought, and (2) the various coping strategies used. A total of 83 interviews were conducted in 20 households. The research to-date on drought coping strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa are highly quantitative, focused on top-down interventions, and do not emphasize individual perceptions, experience, and autonomous decision-making when coping with drought.
Results found that the perceived impacts of drought were decreased agricultural productivity, livestock hunger, death, and relocation, a lack of water in rivers, human hunger and disease, and violent conflict. The strategies for coping with drought included changing agricultural practices, adopting irrigation, relying on aid, charcoal burning, casual labour, livelihood diversification, and others. Importantly, these coping strategies can be classified into four categories: livelihood diversification, longer-term livelihood strategies, short-term coping activities, and erosive coping strategies. This research contributes to the effort to better document and understand farmers’ perceptions and strategies to cope with drought through qualitative research methods and from the perspective of the individual smallholder farmer, which is important for making context-specific policy and project recommendations aimed at smallholder farmers.