Relationship Between Community Livelihood Options and Climate Change Knowledge and Practices: a Case Study of Maasai Mau Forest, Narok County, Kenya
Rural households engage in a broad range of livelihoods including agriculture and non-agricultural activities. However, these livelihoods are being threatened by the changing climate that present increased potential for forest clearing to pave way for new farm lands as dependence on the forest resources for sustenance become inevitable. It is ironical that even though climate change continues to dominate on the world’s front banner of environmental discourse, some studies established that some communities do not yet comprehend what climate change is. This study therefore assessed the relationship between community livelihood options and climate change knowledge and practices among communities adjacent to the Maasai Mau forest, Narok County, Kenya. Specifically, it investigated the livelihood activities, assessed the knowledge of climate and its implications on livelihood options and the climate change adaptation practices among households in Maasai Mau forest. Household surveys were conducted among 53 households that were systematically selected in the study area. The primary data was triangulated with focus group discussions, key informant interviews and participant’s field observations. Secondary data included the review of published journals and grey literature. Quantitative data was subjected to in-depth analysis by use of means, percentages and cross-tabulations whereas qualitative data was organized, summarized and the coherence of responses observed. The main livelihood activities included crop production (85%) and livestock production (14%). There was found to be a high dependence on the forest resources (100%) although only 2% of the respondents ranked forest products as their major livelihood activity. Other livelihood activities included businesses and casual labour (8%). About 93% of the respondents were aware of climate change mainly through own experiences. This knowledge was attributed to increased pests and disease incidences, droughts, floods, drying up of streams, declined forest products and crop yields. About 72% of the respondents cited natural causes as the primary cause for the changes in climate, 26% and 2% stated human activities and punishment from gods respectively. Participant observation however, evidenced anthropogenic activities undergoing in the study area as the probable cause of the climate change more than the purported natural causes. The communities practiced mixed farming, crop diversification, agro-forestry, improved livestock breeds and use of improved cookstoves in response to climate change. It is therefore, indisputable that the diverse rural livelihoods among FACs are affected by climate change. The communities are aware of the climate change mainly through own experience but their knowledge of its primary causes was inadequate thus informing their common adaptation practices. The study recommends designing of a policy on climate change awareness creation to enable better response practices. Further research is needed on the role and extent of alternative energy fuels in climate change adaptation among forest adjacent communities.
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