Friday, November 30, 2012

2 Effects of enclosures and land zoning on the restoration of degraded semi-arid rangeland in Kenya

Below is a summary of my PhD thesis, defended successfully on 29th November, 2012 at Ghent University, Belgium.

In response to the increasing land degradation in arid and semi-arid environments in Sub-Saharan Africa, numerous approaches to their restoration have been developed. Very few of these have been successful beyond the project implementation period. In some parts of Eastern Africa however, rangeland enclosures and community-based conservation are increasingly being adopted in pastoral areas under transition and in the livestock-wildlife interface, respectively. The two approaches represent restoration initiatives at site (enclosure) to landscape (conservancy) levels. However, their impact on the semi-arid ecosystem health is still not well understood. This study aimed to assess and describe the impact of enclosures and community conservation management on the restoration of degraded semi-arid rangeland in Kenya. 

The specific objectives were to (a) assess the impact of enclosures under private and communal management on ecosystem health using the key biotic (herbaceous vegetation) and abiotic (soil properties) indicators; (b) quantify the tangible benefits derived from rehabilitating a degraded semi-arid rangeland in communal enclosures; (c) assess the impact of community conservation management on a semi-arid savannah; and (d) determine the effects of range rehabilitation through reseeding on large herbivore dynamics. The study was conducted on the Njemps Flats in the Lake Baringo basin (Baringo County), and in a number of group ranches in the neighbouring Laikipia County. 

Enclosure establishment and active management has led to recovery of herbaceous vegetation, especially grasses and standing crop biomass, compared to the adjacent degraded rangeland. Enclosures were also effective in restoring soil quality. The tangible benefits realised from the restored areas are one of the incentives driving rangeland enclosure establishment in the Lake Baringo basin. Positive correlations between enclosure total incomes with time demonstrate increase in the enclosure income. The improvement of the soil quality, general rangeland condition, and economic return show that creating rangeland enclosures is a potential avenue for combating land degradation and poverty in the drylands where pastoralism is in transition from extensive to sedentary and hybrid systems. 

The adoption of community-based conservation (CBC) by the pastoral communities in northern Kenya has leveraged more land for conservation of wildlife, habitats and grazing lands. It has also secured the community land from sub-division and erection of fences which impede wildlife migration and pastoralism. Thirdly, CBC offers a great opportunity for the communities to benefit from wildlife and other natural resources existing on their land through profit-sharing from eco-tourism initiatives using the payment of environmental service (PES) arrangements. However, CBC and its natural resource management programme have also created new challenges such as a declining and improving rangeland condition in the grazing and settlement, and conservation zones, respectively. The challenges of planning and budgeting the utilisation of key land resources, especially pasture, remains a serious threat to the success of CBCs. This thesis highlights a number of pragmatic suggestions on how the situation can be managed, in order to abate further decline in range condition in the grazing zones. These would increase the resilience of the rangeland ecosystem in the long term and increase the potential of community conservation management to restore degraded grazing lands and habitats, conserve biodiversity, and alleviate poverty in the Kenyan livestock-wildlife interface areas.

Citation: Mureithi, S.M. 2012. Effects of enclosures and land zoning on the restoration of degraded semi-arid rangeland in Kenya. PhD thesis. Ghent University Press. pp. 210. ISBN 978-9-4619708-4-8


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