As part of its matchmaking approach that devises data-driven early action food security solutions for dry areas, the Jameel Observatory supports researchers looking for answers that pastoral communities can use to overcome climate changes. Post-doctoral Fellows supported by the Observatory combine their academic research with the development of products and tools that have practical applications in drylands.

Samuel Derbyshire’s research focuses on pastoral economies and livestock systems in Kenya’s northern drylands, particularly the Turkana region. Before taking up this appointment, he held positions at the British Institute in Eastern Africa and the University of Oxford, exploring the socio-economic and political contexts of drought and pastoralist livelihood change in eastern Africa.

Through his research, he has also contributed to a wide range of climate change-oriented development programs focused on African drylands and is currently a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Omo-Turkana Research Network. His DPhil research at the University of Oxford explored the recent history and contemporary livelihood practices of the pastoralist Turkana people of north-west Kenya. 

Samuel is based at the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya where his research is co-financed by the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action and the Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) project.

Research focus and plans

Working with ILRI’s Rupsha Banerjee, Samuel will conduct research into the socio-economic indicators used within drought early warning systems to trigger anticipatory action. He will explore the changing ways in which such triggers have been conceptualised and evaluated over the past few decades, their shifting roles within broader frameworks and the linkages between their design and wider processes of planning and implementation.

Working closely with a range of practitioners and policy makers in eastern Africa, including Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority, he will seek to facilitate dialogue and identify gaps for improvement and further support across the cycle of anticipatory action. He will also lead research in northern Kenya examining possibilities for a more participatory, community-oriented approach to the forecasting and mitigation of drought and better targeted anticipatory actions.

Jameel Observatory significance

This research grew out of the recognition that the design and selection of action ‘triggers’, while a core component of anticipatory action, are fraught with difficulties. Most existing triggers for weather-related hazards like droughts are predominantly based on weather forecasts and they largely overlook critical local socio-economic and institutional indicators that are important in shaping local and wider responses. This research, which examines and sets out a richer set of locally-based indicators and triggers for anticipatory action helps tackle the Observatory’s challenge question on effective early action at community levels that seeks to overcome disconnects between formal and informal drought and crisis prediction and response systems.


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See his publications on ORCID

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