Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Brent McCusker.

Committee Co-Chair

Ann Oberhauser

Committee Member

Robert Maxon


Kenya's arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) have continued to experience chronic and persistent food crises despite the efforts made by governmental and non-governmental organizations to address the problem. Inappropriate policies and poor approaches have partly been blamed for this persistence. This study therefore seeks to examine how food insecurity is conceptualized within policy documents, the perceived causes and solutions, and potential drawbacks of such perceptions. The study adopts a political ecology framework within which Ellis' (2000) rural livelihood approach and Sen's (1981) entitlement thesis are used to analyze selected government policy documents and related reports. A brief historical overview of the political, social and economic history of the ASALs situates the issue in a temporal context and shows how colonial policies set the stage for the marginalization of these regions, a process that has been perpetuated in different ways by subsequent postcolonial regimes. A textual analysis of policy documents reveals contradictions and inconsistencies within and across the documents on key policy issues such as the effects of market liberalization on food security. Furthermore, the spatio-temporal nature of food insecurity in the ASALs poses a unique challenge which has not been adequately addressed by the policies. The findings of this study are relevant to food security and food policy studies, and rural livelihoods and emphasize the need to incorporate contextual differences as well as harmonizing the different policies to effectively address the chronic and persistent food crises in the ASALs.