A former British army officer has been shot dead on his ranch in central Kenya by armed herders responsible for land invasions in the area, according to Kenyan police.

Tristan Voorspuy, a British citizen who was born in South Africa, was killed by pastoral herders on Sunday 5 March in Laikipia while inspecting his Sosian ranch, 190km (118m) north of Nairobi, Associated Press quoted a local police official as saying.

Voorspuy, who was the founder of luxury safari company Offbeat Safaris, had gone to inspect damage on his lodge, caused by the armed herdsmen when he was killed. Two cottages on his property had been torched, according to local media.

The battle for water and pasture in drought-ravaged Kenya has spilled over into violence between armed cattle herders from rival tribes, with people and wildlife killed.

Tristan Voorspuy
Tristan Voorspuy, a former British army officer, was shot dead in Kenya on 5 March 2017 Offbeat Safaris

Kenya's most important wildlife conservancies and private farms have been facing "armed incursions" by thousands of herders in the Laikipia county as the pastorialists search for food and water for their livestock.

Voorspuy, who was the founder of luxury safari company Offbeat Safaris, had gone to inspect damage on his lodge, caused by the armed herdsmen when he was killed. Two cottages on his property had been torched, according to local media.

"It is true the Sosian ranch director was shot dead while going to inspect damage at his ranch," local government official Jacob Endung, said. "He was riding on his horse when he was felled by bullets. Even the horse was also shot at and is lying there."

Endung added: "These people are dangerous, they don't spare anyone." Police were not immediately able to access the area.

Voorspuy was schooled and raised in Sussex. He spent three years in the British army until 1981 before moving to Kenya and founding his company, which specialises in horseback safaris.

Martin Evans, chairman of the Laikipia Farmers Association is quoted as saying the former soldier was passionate about Laikipia, its land and its wildlife.

Officials blame the land invasions on the drought, but ranchers claim the land invasions are politically motivated, and part of a strategy to take over their land. Others, who believe candidates could benefit from shifts in population dynamics, allege the attacks may be linked to the upcoming general elections.

Earlier this month, Kenya declared the current drought affecting 23 of the country's 47 counties a natural disaster, with some 2.7 million people in Kenya affected and facing food insecurity.