The impact of population dynamics on the forest resource:A case study of west laikipia; laikipia district, kenya
The study introduces the conflict between population dynamics and natural resource utilization as a subject of considerable theoretical and/or practical concern the world over, with particular focus on Kenya. More specifically, it examines the impact(s) of population in-migration and/or settlement and the related population characteristics on forest cover change in a more localized regional context in West LAIKIPIA. It posits that changes prevalent in forest cover over four designated periods in time (1961, 1969, 1980, and 1996) are primarily a result of population change over the same time frame. Given the dramatic changes in land ownership and landuse dynamics witnessed in Laikipia District since the beginning of this century owing to the takeover by the colonialists of a formerly pastoral land, and the subsequent change into large-scale ranching, then purchase and acquisition of the ranches by the landless and the later subdivision, coupled with increasing in-migration and natural population growth over the years, the extent of forest cover may have been jeopardized. This is particularly so in West Laikipia owing to its potential for rain-fed agriculture, among a myriad of other considerations. The present study set out to investigate the impact of the changes inherent in population in-migration and settlement in West Laikipia, and the related population characteristics on forest cover change in the same area. The tests adminstered started from the premise that there are no significant relationships existing between aspects such as settlement, small-scale farming, woodfuel consumption and other wood uses (mainly timber), and forest cover change. Data analysis is based on both the primary and secondary data. The former was mainly collected by the use of questionnaires from at least 10 percent of the entire households and saw-millers in the study area. All forest officers in the selected study sites were also interviewed. The samples covered were randomly selected. The main analytical tools used are correlation, selected population data analysis tools and an integrated approach for the analysis of data relating to forest cover changes obtained from aerial photographs, SPOT imagery, and topographical base maps A brief consideration touching on the general; mainly historical, aspect of migration in Laikipia District and West Laikipia in particular, coupled with a detailed discussion of the settlement process development in the selected study areas, as they relate to forest cover changes over a specified time frame is also incorporated. Analysis of data in this regard indicates that settlement alone explains about 80 percent of the overall changes affecting forest cover, and that the expansion in small-scale fanning over the years has led to over 66 percent loss of forest cover on plots from the time of settlement. Analysis of data related to population characteristics (both innate and acquired) and related to forest resource utilisation in the study areas shows that the variations in household characteristics such as net income, household size and education differentials, among other characteristics, have some influence on forest resource use either directly or indirectly. While conclusive evidence shows that there is at least a correlation(s) between population change and forest cover change; inversely or positively, the salient research finding shows that total forest cover in West Laikipia reduced over 30,000 acres in 1961 to slightly lower than 20,000 acres in 1969, only to increase drastically to 43,114 acres in 1980 and begin a downward trend to reach 40,000 acres in 1996 Notably, forest cover changes have been mainly witnessed within the forests as opposed to the forest cover margins. On the basis of the research findings and the related conclusions made, recommendations to future researchers, relevant policy makers and even general resource users are drawn. Mainly, whereas population policies should aim at re¬directing population migration flows to other areas other than forest zones and encouraging alternative energy use for domestic need, forest policies should aim at decentralizing forest management to allow for full participation of the local people and encouraging the practice of farm forestry in order to meet household wood requirements. There is need to undertake a compilation of a comprehensive inventoried database on forest cover densities in West Laikipia and other parts of Kenya, for the purpose of harmonizing regional development planning. There is a general dearth of this data at the moment.
CitationMaster of Arts in Population Geography
Universlty of NairobiFaculty of Arts