Socio-economic and phytoecological environment of nomads in smallholder irrigation schemes in Isiolo district, Kenya
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This study was motivated by the fact that natural resources need to be understood within the context and in relation to the surrounding socio-economic environment. The two objectives of the study were firstly to identify the socio-economic response by nomadic pastoralists to smallholder irrigation schemes in Isiolo District and secondly to assess the phytoecology status of the study area. The first objective was achieved through questionnaires on the farming objective, phytoecological populations. attributes of For the second composition and non-farming pastoral cover, and density were assessed using transects and quadrats. Results from the socio-economic survey showed that the irrigation schemes had socio-economic impacts on the nomadic Borana population. Among them were that communal ownership of grazing land was replaced with individual ownership in areas that were demarcated into farming plots. This subsequently excluded livestock from the key dry-season grazing areas, while heavy concentration of resident livestock herds to support the settled population led to excessive use of vegetation due to a round-the-year grazing. Second 1y, ;1abour engagement in irrigation farming and wage-earning from other sectors resulted not only in the real location of labour thus diminishing the labour available for livestock herding but also introduced a mixed income to the pastoral economy. Lack of labour or excessive labour requirement was considered the biggest problem to irrigation farming. The 0.5 ha plots per households and the food produced on them were not adequate for household sustenance while household size analysis showed a higher household size for farming pastoralists as compared to non-farming ones. Pureherders devoted most of their family members to livestock herding, had fewer of their children attending school and negligible numbers in formal employment. At the same time monies obtained from farming was inevitably reinvested in livestock holdings. Livestock marketing and provision of veterinary services have improved as a result of improved domestic communication routes. At the same time dispensaries in the schemes have been constructed though poorly equipped. From the phytoecological point of view bushlands occupied relatively drier areas than woodlands and had very sparse grass cover. Grassland areas were very limited around the schemes, but they increased as one moved away from the schemes with basal cover of key species being less than 35%. As human settlements were located 2 to 3 km away from the schemes, there was excessive use of vegetation in these sites, and due to overgrazing, the vegetation types were interspersed with areas of bareground prone to severe erosion. There was therefore a negative correlation between the resultant settlements and the phytoecological status of the study area. It was concluded from the study that the emphasis by the government on smallholder irrigation schemes in nomadic Isiolo District did not seem justifiable as their potential for increasing productivity could be outweighed by resulting severe land degradation.