• destocking;
  • Kenya;
  • pastoralists;
  • drought–mitigation strategies

The idea of externally assisted emergency destocking of pastoralists has gained currency in recent years: increasing the incentives for pastoralists to sell animals, or removing the constraints to selling animals in the early stages of drought. We identify two separate rationales put forward by proponents of destocking: environmental benefits and purchasing power/welfare benefits. We consider whether specific recent critiques of ‘new range ecology’ and specifically of ‘tracking policies’ do in fact provide arguments against emergency destocking in pastoralist areas. We illustrate some of these themes with a case study of a successful destocking exercise in northern Kenya where a very specific form of support was requested and received by pastoralists themselves. The sorts of destocking that work are likely to have significant effects on pastoralist purchasing power at key points of the drought cycle, but minimal effects on the environment. Clarifying these points will make it easier to promote destocking as a drought–mitigation policy.