Rangeland Resource Dynamics And Their Implications For Pastoral Livelihoods In Amboseli Ecosystem, Kenya
Worldwide, rangeland ecosystems have experienced tremendous land use changes in the recent decades that have triggered numerous ecological, social and economic dynamics with adverse implications on its inhabitants. These changes have set in motion a number of social, ecological and economic transformations that have undermined the key livelihoods of pastoral communities and the ecosystem integrity at large. Research gaps exist on local community attitudes and perceptions on these change dynamics, their implications on pastoral livelihoods as well as coping mechanisms employed by these communities in response to them. This study was therefore carried out in Amboseli ecosystem in Kajiado County in Kenya to assess communities’ perceptions of spatio-temporal changes in range resources over the last four decades. Moreover, the perceived causes of rangeland resource change and the long term implications on household herd size and mobility were determined. Participatory mapping was done to assess the extent of resource changes and the causes of their perceived changes. In addition, semi-structured questionnaire was administered to households to gather information on the rangeland status, utilization and the effects of observed changes on household herd holdings and mobility. Diminishing grazing land was perceived as the main change in pastoral resources over the last four decades. The decline was more pronounced in the sedentary (50%) and semi nomadic (47%) land uses. This trend was attributed to expansion of cultivation and settlements, which significantly increased by 26% and 17% respectively in sedentary site, and by 17% and 12% respectively in semi nomadic sites during the period under investigation. This was partly attributed to land tenure changes in both sites. Most (79%) of the respondents reported having observed changes in areas of grazing, settlements, cultivation among others, which they attributed mostly to human population growth, expansion in cultivation, land use changes and xiii reduced rainfall. Results also indicate that the average household herd size was bigger in nomadic site (40.8 Tropical Livestock Unit (TLU)) than in sedentary (22.9 TLU) land use site. The majority of the respondents in nomadic (79%), semi-nomadic (73%) and sedentary (64%) reported a declining trend in household herd size. These declines were mostly attributed to recurrent droughts, loss of grazing lands through expansion of cultivation and human encroachment and the changes in land use. Improving the local livestock breeds (27%) for better returns and diversification of livelihoods (22%) were mentioned as key strategies by the community in addressing the changing rangeland conditions in Amboseli Ecosystem. Pastoralism remains an important livelihood strategy to majority of households in the study area, and therefore approaches of restoring herd mobility as a key coping strategy under conditions of spatial and temporal resource variability is critical to sustainable livestock production in the Amboseli Ecosystem. Participatory approaches of resource assessment provide entry point for eliciting communities’ perceptions on the resource changes, their causes and the community responses to the perceived changes, and are crucial prerequisite for sustainable community-based range use planning and management. Key words: Community perceptions, Land use types, Local knowledge, Rangeland condition, and Rangeland resource changes.
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