Management of natural resources by small scale farmers: A Case study of agricultural land in Central Division of Machakos District, Kenya
Most development undertaking in Kenya focuses on rural areas. A significant segment of Kenyans in these areas derive their livelihood directly from land where agricultural related activities dominant. Land use policies therefore need to incorporating sound natural environment management aimed at solving the country's socio-cultural, economic and environmental problems in the face of the growing population (Republic of Kenya, 1994) and decreasing land available to each rural household. This study set out to establish the extent to which small scale farmers in the high and low potential agro-ecologicaJ zones of the Central division make use of their agricultural land. The five agro-ecological zones of the division were broadly classified into low and high AEZs for the purpose of comparing land use activities and other socio-economic attributes of the farmers. Administrative locations were then fitted in this broad classification where random sampling was then used to select the two areas of study. Seventy eight questionnaires were administered in the field, forty two and thirty six in the high and low potential areas respectively. Other types of data were collected by use of scheduled interviews, participant observation and focus group discussions. In addition to the physical factors such as rainfall, soils and topography that were found to influence the use and management of agricultural land, the study established that the socioeconomic factors also do influence utilization of land. As a result of the increasing population in the high potential areas, the low potential areas have continued to receive high number of immigrants from the high potential leading to depletion of land resources. In the two areas, the problem of soil erosion was found to be acute due to human activities which has continued to exert a lot of pressure on agricultural land. The study also established that resources such as land and money are generally controlled by men despite women being the main users and custodian of land. The roles of women unlike those of men were significant in all land use activities such as fetching of water and XIV fire wood, cooking, weeding, harvesting, grazing of cattle, soil conservation efforts among others. This research calls fo: resource management strategies from the household to community level that will lead to alleviation of poverty in the face of increasing environmental degradation. The deciding actors should also involve the farmers at all levels in the conceptualization and designing of farming technological package in order to adequately address the problem of declining agricultural production. Some of the recommendation suggested in this study include agroforestry practices, gender sensitization and community participation campaigns to enable both men and women to participate together in land use and resource conservation efforts, revolving loan schemes to be operated by mwethya groups which enjoys wider support from the household and also as groups which empower women and the need for market survey. Finally, the study suggested a model that can be used for development of resources in the ASALs. It indicates among other things that management of resources and their use will depend on how best the outsiders (deciding actors) understand and appreciate the local actors (farmers) strategies and perception in as far as they relate to various resources.