Attempts to recover the body of a British rancher, who has been shot dead in central Kenya by armed herders responsible for land invasions in the area, have failed after gunmen shot at the search team sent out by his family.

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

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.

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.

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.

On Monday, Voorspuy's friends and family had mobilised two helicopters and two armoured cars to retrieve his body but they were stopped by police due to the volatile security situation. Police could not access the area, described by local media as too dangerous.

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.

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.