The study examined the spatiotemporal distribution of drought in the Maasai rangelands of Kenya. The implications of this distribution, in concert with the documented existing and/or projected social and biophysical factors, on critical rangeland resources in Maasai-pastoralism are discussed using an integrated approach. Participatory interviews with the Maasai, retrieval from archives, and acquisition from instrument measurements provided data for the study. Empirical evidence of the current study reveals that drought occurrences in this rangeland have been recurrent, widespread, cyclic, sometimes temporally clustered, and have manifested with varying intensities across spatial, temporal, and, occasionally, social scales; and they have more intensity in lower than higher agroecological areas. An estimated 86% of drought occurrences in this rangeland, over the last three decades alone, were of major drought
category. The 2000s, with four major drought events including two extreme droughts, are an important drought period. A strong consensus exists among the Maasai regarding observed drought events. In Maasai-pastoralism, the phenomenon called drought, pastoralist drought, is simultaneously multivariate and multiscalar: its perception comprises the simultaneous manifestation of cross-scale meteorological, socioeconomic, and environmental factors and processes, and their various combinations. The inherent simultaneous multivariate and scalar nature of the pastoralist drought distinguishes it from the conventional drought types, particularly the meteorological drought that predominantly guides drought and resource management in the rangelands of Kenya. In Maasai-pastoralism, the scarcely used (33%) meteorological drought
is construed as rainfall delay/failure across spatial and/or temporal scale, and never its reduced amount. Collectively, the current findings reveal that knowledge about drought affects the way the manifestation of this climatic hazard is perceived, communicated, and characterized; hence, ceteris paribus
, alongside its spatiotemporal distribution, shapes the nature of the adaptive capacity of and resource management in Maasai-pastoralism. Studies that anticipate enhancing the drought-adaptive capacity of the Maasai should account for cross-scale social and biophysical factors, their processes, and interactions; they must engage the affected inhabitants, and utilize and integrate multiple data sources and approaches. These necessities become more crucial for informing adaptation under the present spatiotemporal distribution of drought as well as in relation to the projected increase in occurrence and intensity of this climatic hazard as the climate continues to change, and as pressures from socioeconomic globalization persistently proliferate into the Maasai’s social and biophysical landscapes.