This study seeks to understand strategies that households in arid and semi-arid East Africa use to cope and adapt to climate change. The findings show that households accumulate livestock wealth in drier areas, and that coping strategies used by households vary across social groups, suggesting that policies aiming to improve adaptation could benefit from building in flexibility to accommodate differentiated responses. Remittances received from migrants act as an important mechanism linking migration to the adoption of adaptation practices by enabling the uptake of technologies that involve monetary costs. Households adaptive capacity is stronger when the quality of local institutions is high suggesting that policies aimed at strengthening local institutions can foster adaptation. The adoption of improved seeds, fertilisers, intensifying livestock production etc. holds a lot of potential in minimizing the chances of falling into food insecurity and income loss, suggesting that policies should aim at promoting improved farming.