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Effect of land use changes on adaptive strategies for smallholder agro-pastoralists in Kenya

Authors:
  • kenya agricultural and livestock research organization KALRO
  • Murang'a university of Technology

Abstract

A study to characterize existing adaptive strategies and shifts in smallholder agro-pastoralists in relation to changes in land use and land subdivisions was carried out. A total of 48.9% of respondent indicated that there had been a shift in the adaptive strategies where unreliable rainfall, better access to land and water, acquisition of skills, shortage of pastures and proximity to wildlife habitats were the main factors influencing the shifts. Shortage of rainfall, lack of capital in terms of technology resource requirements, predation, livestock diseases and lack of seeds for both pastures and crops were ranked as the major constraints recording 88.9, 55.6, 45.6, 35.6 and 30% of respondents, respectively (N=90). Early planting, use of drought resistant crops, predation control and feed conservation were some of the important agro-pastoral adaptive strategies in the study area. The change in land-use led to increased problems of predation and depredation leading to increased livestock/wildlife and crop/wildlife conflicts. Proximity to infrastructures such as water sources, road networks or transport, access to credit facilities for input acquisition also affected land-use practices.
Livestock Research for Rural
Development 24 (8) 2012
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LRRD Newsletter Citation of
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Effect of land use changes on adaptive
strategies for smallholder agro-pastoralists in
Kenya
E C Kirwa, M M Nyangito*, D M Nyariki* and R K Kimitei
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Kiboko Research Centre, P.O. Box 12-
90138, Makindu, Kenya
eckirwa@yahoo.com
* Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology,
University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 29053, Nairobi, Kenya
Abstract
A study to characterize existing adaptive strategies and shifts in smallholder agro-pastoralists in relation to changes
in land use and land subdivisions was carried out. A total of 48.9% of respondent indicated that there had been a
shift in the adaptive strategies where unreliable rainfall, better access to land and water, acquisition of skills,
shortage of pastures and proximity to wildlife habitats were the main factors influencing the shifts. Shortage of
rainfall, lack of capital in terms of technology resource requirements, predation, livestock diseases and lack of seeds
for both pastures and crops were ranked as the major constraints recording 88.9, 55.6, 45.6, 35.6 and 30% of
respondents, respectively (N=90).
Early planting, use of drought resistant crops, predation control and feed conservation were some of the important
agro-pastoral adaptive strategies in the study area. The change in land-use led to increased problems of predation
and depredation leading to increased livestock/wildlife and crop/wildlife conflicts. Proximity to infrastructures such
as water sources, road networks or transport, access to credit facilities for input acquisition also affected land-use
practices.
Key words: constraints, land fragmentation, ranches, strategy shifts, wildlife conflicts
Introduction
Traditionally, rangelands supported pastoral subsistence economy that was mainly milk based but
included other livestock products. Livestock production was then the main source of livelihood
that provided the pastoral communities with food and played a major role in their cultural and
religious activities. Livestock acted as reservoir for family wealth, insurance against disaster
and/or social capital. To ensure sustainable subsistence production, the pastoralists employed
several strategies such as: (1) keeping diverse livestock species to provide a broad, flexible,
opportunistic and temporarily stable resource availability resulting from complementary use of
range forage, (2) establishment and maintenance of a social system for resource sharing or
borrowing, (3) mobility to obtain sufficient utilization of forage and water resources, (4)
splitting of livestock into spatially separate units based on species, management, milk
production, age or property units thus minimize the effects of disease outbreaks and droughts
and (5) maximizing on stock numbers to increase the chances of survival in case of severe
droughts (Kariuki et al 1996; Herlocker 1999).
Over time, there have been a lot of changes that have necessitated a change in the adaptive
strategies to better cope with the changing pastoral production systems. Some of the causative
factors include sedentarization of pastoralists due to increased influence of central governments
that provided social amenities such as health centers and vet services and improved
infrastructures and permanent watering sources at specific points in the extensive grazing lands
in the ASALs. Also, sedentarization has occurred due to change in land tenure resulting from
sub-division and individualization of ranches. The mobility of pastoral herds allowed for
maximum and equitable exploitation of patchily distributed water and pasture in the rangelands.
However, increased sedentarization has reduced pastoral mobility and concentrated the people
and their livestock around the water points, resulting in increased land degradation. This has also
increased their vulnerability to drought and in the long run may jeopardize the viability of the
livestock enterprise upon which pastoral livelihoods depends.
In addition to sedentarization, higher potential rangelands have been converted into other land-
uses (IRIN 2007), which have reduced the dry season grazing areas. As a result of diminishing
forage resource base, the pastoralists who could no longer maintain subsistence livestock
production have adapted other sources of livelihood including farming and wage employment.
This has led to shifts in pastoral strategies such as the use of secondary grazing land rights that
involve provision of farm labour or exchange of ox plough for grazing rights by the agro-
pastoralists (Nyangito et al 2008). Also, pastoral and agro-pastoral communities have had to
reduce their livestock herds due to diminishing grazing areas thus loosing on the benefit of
maximizing on livestock numbers to cushion against total losses in case of drought. In some
cases, changes in livestock breeds have occurred with fast growing and higher yielding animals
being preferred (Wangui 2003).
The shrinking resource base coupled with shifts to cultivated agriculture has also led to increased
resource-based conflicts (Kariuki et al 1996). Also, the pastoralists have had to rely more on the
market economy while restructuring their livestock herds, particularly towards keeping more
small stock that reproduce more quickly and have higher economic rate of return.
Changes in land-use have had implications on gender roles in the households. Due to the
adoption of cultivated agriculture by the pastoral Maasai community, the responsibility of
managing livestock is no longer solely handled by men (Wangui 2003). Women are spending
more time in livestock production than in the past. In addition, Wangui (2003) observed that
there was a positive correlation between the number of hours wives spent on crop production and
the length of time a household had spent since it started farming. Furthermore, significant
reduction in livestock holding per household due to the effect of reduced grazing areas coupled
with drought has resulted in Maasai men loosing interest in management of the remaining
animals leaving the responsibility to their wives.
On the other hand, overall shift in pastoral coping strategies may not have taken place despite
strong external forces of change. For example, pastoral communities have opted to re-aggregate
post group ranch subdivision as a means of maintaining flexibility in their land-use system
(BurnSilver and Mwangi 2007). Kariuki et al (1996) also reported a shift back to pastoral coping
strategies among pastoral communities in Isiolo as a result of poor crop output from irrigated
farms. In fact, most pastoralists settled for irrigated agriculture after the droughts with the aim of
building up their livestock herds and return back to full pastoralism after getting enough animals.
Other cases include the reinvestment of proceeds from irrigated agriculture in livestock by the
pastoral Turkana community (Henricksen 1975). This study therefore aimed at characterizing
existing adaptive strategies and shifts in smallholder agro-pastoralists in relation to changes in
land use and land subdivisions
Materials and Methods
Study area
The study was carried out in 3 smallholder agro-pastoral sites in former ranching areas located
South East (SE) of Nairobi on the Athi Kapiti plains in Machakos and Makueni Districts. Konza
smallholder farm (SMF) was from the subdivided area of Konza ranch located in Kimutwa and
Muumando Sub-locations of Machakos District and while Kima and Kiu SMFs were from Kima
and Kiu ranches located in Kiima-kiu Sub-location of Makueni District. Machakos district
covers about 14,000km2 and lies in the SE of Kenya. Rainfall is highest in the hills on the North
West (NW) (1,000mm) declining to the SE (600mm). Most of the areas in Machakos District
receive annual mean rainfall of less than 800mm. Makueni District receives an average of
1,200mm rainfall in the highlands located in the North and declines to 500mm in the lowlands in
the South.
The main economic activities in the smallholder agro-pastoral households include crop farming,
keeping of livestock and small business enterprises. The main food crops cultivated include
drought tolerant crops varieties such as maize, beans, cowpeas and pigeon peas. The dominant
types of livestock kept are goats, cattle, donkey and chicken.
Data collection and analysis
Data was collected using a semi-structured questionnaire. The information collected included
land size, adaptive strategies, limitations and factors causing the change in adaptive strategies
ranked in order of importance. This information was collected through Focus Group Discussions
(FGD) and face-to-face interviews with household heads. The households were sampled at every
500m along main paths in the 3 SMFs above. A total of 90 smallholder households were
interviewed. One FGD was held after the household survey involving 14 participants selected
from the 3 SMFs with the assistance of area local leaders. The FGD was used to complement the
information from the face-to-face interviews, particularly the constraints, possible opportunities
and coping strategies.
Data entry was done in Microsoft office excel 2007 and analyzed using the Statistical Package of
Social Scientists (SPSS) version 10.
Results and Discussions
Constraints to smallholder production systems and the adaptive strategies in Machakos
and Makueni districts
The study considered characterization of constraints affecting smallholder households in the
study area particularly with regard to the changing land-use and further fragmentation of the
land. Shortage of rainfall was the most mentioned constraint (88.9%) affecting both crop and
livestock production in the study area (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Constraints to
smallholder households in
Machakos and Makueni
Districts
The area receives an annual rainfall of less than 800mm per annum (Jaetzold et al 2006) that is
highly variable in space and time (Nyangito et al 2008). This constraint was also ranked first
during the focus group discussions (FGDs). Lack of capital, predation, livestock diseases and
lack of seeds for both pastures and crops were ranked as the other major constraints recording
55.6%, 45.6%, 35.6% and 30% of respondents, respectively. Among the respondents that
mentioned lack of capital as a constraint, 52% indicated enhanced access to loans as a possible
opportunity. Capital in this case refers to technology resource requirements and lack of it has had
a negative effect in technology uptake in the ASALs. Access to credit as a strategy to cope with
effects of changing environmental conditions in the ASALs was cited by 24.4% of the
respondents (Figure 2). Lack of capital also ranked second during the FGD.
Predation within the study area was mainly through depredation of crops by wild animals. This
was as a result of encroachment of cultivated agriculture into areas previously used by wildlife
and proximity of croplands to wildlife reserve areas such as the none-subdivided ranches. This
led to crop farmer-wildlife conflicts. In response to this conflict, the farmers opted to control the
wild animals using methods that are contrary to the law such as poaching. Predation was also
viewed as a problem to livestock production particularly to chicken and small ruminants. Among
the adaptive strategies, predation control by use of fences, traps and poaching ranked second
after early planting as indicated by 36.7% of the smallholder farmers. Identification of predation
as one of the major constraint was in agreement with findings by Esikuri (1998), Kimani and
Pickard (1998) and Muthiani (2004) that change in land-use leads to increased problems of
predation and depredation leading to increased livestock/wildlife and crop/wildlife conflicts.
Wild animals have been known to coexist with livestock in the rangelands through integrated
pastoral production systems that use the range complementarily. However, land subdivision and
changes in land-use in the rangelands have led to increased crop-wildlife and livestock-wildlife
conflicts (Esikuri 1998; Kimani and Pickard 1998). In addition, fencing as a predation control
method restricts wildlife movement and may cut off national wildlife reserves from wildlife
dispersal areas resulting in isolation of populations and reduced genetic variability (Kimani and
Pickard 1998).
The mitigative strategies mentioned by the smallholder farmers in the study closely matched
with the constraints mentioned. For instance, early planting and use of drought resistant crops
ranked highly (46.7% and 32%, respectively) among the strategies targeted to mitigate against
unreliable rainfall (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Strategies
employed by smallholder
households in Machakos
and Makueni Districts
Similarly the FGD confirmed early planting and planting of drought resistant crops as important
adaptive strategies and ranked them first and second. Few of the respondents (3.3%) opted to
non-agriculture related strategies such as business enterprises to cope with continued crop failure
as a result of unfavourable climatic conditions. Other highly ranked strategies during the FGD
included proper grazing management, feed conservation and leasing of pastures during times of
shortage.
Characterization of shifts in adaptive strategies in Machakos and Makueni districts
The study observed that the agro-pastoral households had shifted from their traditional adaptive
strategies. These included high seasonal livestock mobility, herd splitting, social networks and
keeping of large livestock numbers. A total of 48.9% of the respondents indicated that there had
been a shift in adaptive strategies due to several factors (Table 1).
Table 1: Factors causing shift in adaptive strategies
Factors for change Respondents (%)
Unreliable rainfall 29.5
Available water 22.7
Available land 20.5
Acquired skills 18.2
Predation 15.9
Feed shortage 11.4
No markets 6.8
Available capital 4.5
Alternative income 2.3
Pasture available 2.3
Transport access 2.3
Unreliable rainfall, availability of land and water, acquisition of skills, shortage of pasture and
predation were the main factors influencing shifts in adaptive strategies. The study also indicated
that land-use practices were affected by proximity to infrastructures such as water sources, road
networks or transport, access to credit facilities for input acquisition and environmental
conditions such as rainfall amounts, which determined the production enterprise. For instance,
access to a reliable source of water and credit facility for purchase of inputs led to a shift to
irrigated agriculture in some of the households. The shift in the adaptive strategies resulted in
increased production of crops, livestock or both. However, a large percentage of the households
(51.1%) did not change their livelihood options (Table 2).
Table 2: Shifts in livelihood options by households
Change option Households (%)
No change 51.1
To business 2.2
Increased livestock production 10
Increased cultivation 15.6
Combined crop and livestock 21
The shift to increased livestock production was through households starting to keep animals or
increasing their livestock numbers, particularly the adapted local breeds. This shift was partly
attributed to frequent crop failure (44%), feed shortage for exotic animals (22%) and predation
on chicken (22%). Few households, 4.5% and 2.3%, opted for only bee keeping and chicken
production, respectively. The reasons behind this shift were lack of markets for other livestock
products and unreliable rainfall that was affecting both pastures and crop production. These
enterprises are regarded as landless livestock production systems because of their low land
requirement. Poultry production especially indigenous chicken is a source of quick cash to the
agro-pastoral community in Makueni District (Nyariki and Wiggins 1999).
In this study area, 21% of the households shifted their production strategies to both crop and
livestock production. Of this group, 52.6% opted for high yielding animals in combination with
irrigated agriculture and/or cash crops. The rest (47.4%) shifted to keeping indigenous livestock
breeds either from cultivated agriculture or keeping of exotic animals. However, none of their
decisions was affected by reduced land size except for unreliability of rainfall and predation due
to proximity to wildlife habitats. Change in land-use to smallholder settlements in areas inhabited
by wildlife has a negative effect. It intensifies human-wildlife conflicts, particularly due to
encroachment of cultivated agriculture to areas used by wildlife (Esikuri, 1998).
Shifts to keeping both high yielding animals and improved crop production was attributed to
bigger land size (30%), proximity to a source of water (50%), acquisition of livestock
management skills, shortage of feed for free ranging animals (10%) and predation on small stock
(10%). The bigger land size is as a result of acquisition of land through subdivision of ranches
particularly to those without any land before. In this case, the fragmentation of ranches had a
positive impact on the households. This is further confirmed by the high number (97.8%) of
respondents that indicated that they were better off in their current settlement, which resulted
from subdivision of ranches. Among this group, 65, 19, 5.7 and 5.7% were better off because of
adequate land size, better crop yields, water availability and access to transport, respectively.
Also, due to individual ownership of resources, 31.8% could make investment decisions on land-
based resource utilization including charcoal burning without external interference particularly
from relatives or authorities.
Despite the many constraints faced under land subdivision, majority of smallholder agro-
pastoralists (97.8) supported the subdivision and asserted that it had influenced their livelihoods
favourably. Only 2% of the respondents mentioned small land size as a constraint.
Conclusions and recommendations
Some of the highly ranked constraints by the smallholder agro-pastoralists included low
rainfall, lack of capital, predation, livestock diseases and lack of seeds for both pastures
and crops.
The identified coping strategies by the smallholder agro-pastoralists in the study included
acquisition of loans, adoption of water harvesting technologies, irrigated agriculture, use
of drought resistant crops, early planting, predation control and diversification into none-
agriculture related strategies such business enterprises. Of these, early planting and use of
drought resistant crops were ranked as the most important coping strategies targeted to
mitigate against the effect of unreliable rainfall in the study area. Predation control,
proper grazing management, feed conservation and leasing of pastures during times of
shortage were also highly ranked.
With increased land degradation in the study area which is as a result of the change in
land-use, there is need for development of appropriate technologies that would contribute
to reversing degradation trends and increase land productivity. The appropriate
technologies should build on the important SMFs adaptive strategies, particularly use of
drought tolerant crops, feed conservation and proper grazing management. There is need
also for development of policies regulating the way land should be utilized. This should
aid in the allocation of appropriate land-uses to parcels of land
Acknowledgements
The authors acknowledge funding support from the EU through KASAL Programme without
which this work would not have been achieved. Also, we are grateful to the Director KARI and
KARI Kiboko staff for their logistical assistance.
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Received 24 April 2012; Accepted 13 July 2012; Published 1 August 2012
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