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Household Livelihood Strategies and Socio- Economic Conditions Influencing Watershed Degradation in Kaiti Sub-watershed, Makueni County, Kenya

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Aim: The aim of the study was to find out how livelihood strategies and socioeconomic conditions influence watershed degradation in Kaiti sub-watershed in Makueni County, Kenya, and their effects on the environment. The study examined the livelihood strategies and options of the people as well as the socioeconomic conditions contributing to watershed degradation, investigated the land use methods practiced and how they affect the sub-watershed. Study Design: The study used a descriptive survey research approach to obtain data on socioeconomic characteristics of the study sites as well as historical trends of land use. Place and Duration of Study: South Eastern Kenya University, Kitui County, Kenya; between June to August 2015. Original Research Article Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412 2 Methodology: The study used multiple methods such as household surveys, observations, Focus Group Discussant interviews (FGDs), key informant and experts' interviews, drawn from sampling of households systematically along vertical and horizontal transect lines. Structured and semi-structured questionnaires were used to collect data from 101 community and key informants. The data collected was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and Microsoft Excel 2010. Results: The study established that low food production as reported by the farmers (78%) and reduced income and livelihood (75%) were consequences of watershed degradation in the study area. Landlessness at 39% (S.E=0.311 z= 1.311 sig.0.190), illegal encroachment at 18% (S.E=0.555 z=-0.604 sig.0.546), and laxity in law enforcement at 27% (S.E=0.481 z=0.227 sig. 0.821) were other factors mentioned by the farmers as contributing to watershed degradation. Conclusion: The study concluded that these conditions predisposed farmers to adopt inappropriate farming methods and unsustainable livelihood strategies which compromised the watershed's environmental integrity. The study sought to make recommendation for efficient watershed management.
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*Corresponding author: E-mail: rndavikieti@yahoo.com, Kietiraphael66@gmail.com;
Journal of Scientific Research & Reports
12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
ISSN: 2320-0227
SCIENCEDOMAIN international
www.sciencedomain.org
Household Livelihood Strategies and Socio-
Economic Conditions Influencing Watershed
Degradation in Kaiti Sub-watershed, Makueni
County, Kenya
Kieti Raphael Ndavi
1*
, Kauti Matheaus Kioko
1
and Kisangau Daniel Patrick
2
1
School of Environment and Natural Resources Management, South Eastern Kenya University
(SEKU), P.O.Box 170-90200, Kitui, Kenya.
2
School of Pure and Applied Sciences, South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU), P.O.Box 170-90200,
Kitui, Kenya.
Authors’ contributions
This work was carried out in collaboration between all authors. Author KRN designed the study,
performed the statistical analysis, wrote the protocol, wrote the first draft of the manuscript and
managed the literature searches. Authors KMK and KDP managed the analyses of the study.
All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Article Information
DOI: 10.9734/JSRR/2016/28412
Editor(s):
(1) Masafumi Tateda, Department of Environmental Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering,
Toyama Prefectural University, Japan.
Reviewers:
(1)
Isin Onur, Akdeniz University, Turkey.
(2)
Artemi Cerda, University of Valencia, Spain.
Complete Peer review History:
http://www.sciencedomain.org/review-history/16440
Received 19
th
July 2016
Accepted 27
th
August 2016
Published 4
th
October 2016
ABSTRACT
Aim:
The aim of the study was to find out how livelihood strategies and socio-economic conditions
influence watershed degradation in Kaiti sub-watershed in Makueni County, Kenya, and their
effects on the environment. The study examined the livelihood strategies and options of the people
as well as the socio-economic conditions contributing to watershed degradation, investigated the
land use methods practiced and how they affect the sub-watershed.
Study Design: The study used a descriptive survey research approach to obtain data on socio-
economic characteristics of the study sites as well as historical trends of land use.
Place and Duration of Study: South Eastern Kenya University, Kitui County, Kenya; between
June to August 2015.
Original Research Article
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
2
Methodology:
The study used multiple methods such as household surveys, observations, Focus
Group Discussant interviews (FGDs), key informant and experts’ interviews, drawn from sampling
of households systematically along vertical and horizontal transect lines. Structured and semi-
structured questionnaires were used to collect data from 101 community and key informants. The
data collected was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and Microsoft
Excel 2010.
Results: The study established that low food production as reported by the farmers (78%) and
reduced income and livelihood (75%) were consequences of watershed degradation in the study
area. Landlessness at 39% (S.E=0.311 z= 1.311 sig.0.190), illegal encroachment at 18%
(S.E=0.555 z= -0.604 sig.0.546), and laxity in law enforcement at 27% (S.E=0.481 z=0.227 sig.
0.821) were other factors mentioned by the farmers as contributing to watershed degradation.
Conclusion: The study concluded that these conditions predisposed farmers to adopt
inappropriate farming methods and unsustainable livelihood strategies which compromised the
watershed’s environmental integrity. The study sought to make recommendation for efficient
watershed management.
Keywords: Land use; watershed degradation; household livelihoods; Makueni.
1. INTRODUCTION
Watershed degradation in the world is a major
problem emanating from human activities leading
to pollution, deforestation and changes in
sediment generation [1]. The functionality of
watershed’s provide essential goods and
services, now threatened by increasing land/
watershed degradation.Watersheds continue to
be altered, due to population increase,
mismanagement of water resources and
increased water erosion and run-off, [1] and [2].
The African continent is faced with the
unprecedented environmental degradation with
about 70% of its population being rural, directly
depending on land and natural environment for
its livelihoods and wellbeing [3]. The savanna
landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa provide
ecological and economic services to sustain local
livelihoods as well as national economies, [4] and
[5]. According to UNEP, [6], rapid population
growth, poverty and social inequities contribute
to watershed degradation globally. Decreased
vegetation cover due to inappropriate land
management practices, charcoal burning,
expanding substistence cropping farming and
livestock grazing, [7,8] and [9], continue to
impact negatively on people’s livelihoods.These
studies indicate that reduction of vegetation
cover,soil erosion and siltation has also, led to
land denudation, habitat loss and farm lands
losing their soil fertility and compromising food
security. Infrastructure and particulrly roads in
rugged terrains accelerates soil erosion
processes, [10]. More conscise and
multidimensional approach for management,
rehabilitation and protection of natural and
sensitive areas is a preliquisite to healthy and
funtional watersheds, [2]. This should be done
with, the aim of protecting the environment and
maximising the aesthetics, social and economic
benefits of the watersheds [11]. Easdale [12],
argues that the concept of human dimension to
the sustainability of dryland management should
be considered,which is relevant to management
of watersheds,because it is focused in totality on
sustainable livelihoods, beyond the sustainable
land practices and soil management.
Kaiti sub-watershed degradation is aggravated
by rapid population growth, high poverty levels,
land use changes, poor land use systems and
deforestation leading to food crisis and
land/watershed degradation [13] and [14]. These
changes impact negatively on, livelihood
strategies and socio-economic situation which
affects the environmental integrity in the sub-
watershed [15,16] and [17]. Population growth
does not necessarily cause environmental
degradation, rather the anthropogenic activities
people undertake in their actions to exploit the
environment, a factor well articulated by Tiffen
et al. [15] in her book ``More people, Less
Erosion: Environmental recovery in Kenya”.
Watershed degradation happens in Kaiti sub-
watershed, despite the well known theory that
population growth does not necessarily lead to
environmental degradation. It is important to
appreciate that conditions have changed in the
last thirty years such as the economic outlook,
off-farm and livelihood diversification options
(decline of employment and small-scale business
opportunities) and availability of land to absorb
excess population which has dramatically
changed with new challenges facing the farmers
within a situation of diminishing farm sizes.
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
3
However, in farms and communities where SWC
measures, increase of vegetation cover (both
exotic and indigeneous vegetation) is maintained
as well as fertiliser applicaton, [5,14], and [18],
there is optimum ecological conservation
irrespective of the population density. Laxity in
enforcement of land laws and inefficient natural
resource management contribute to watershed
degradation [19] and [5]. Land use changes
complicate in the manifestation of food insecurity,
water scarcity, loss of livelihoods, reduced
income and increased poverty, exposing the
communities into vulnerability to drought/famine
and disruption of socio-economic equilibrium with
adverse effects on the environment [19] and [12].
This situation poses new challenges of conflict in
water use, and other resources with negative
impact on the watersheds, and their ecological
and socio-economic functions in environmental
conservation and their ability to sustain the
needs of the people [19] and [20].
The study examined the livelihood strategies and
options of the people as well as the socio-
economic conditions contributing to watershed
degradation. Agro-pastoralism is the main
economic activity in the area. It includes some
non-farm activities like petty trade and casual
labour, which, largely depend on agriculture
based economy. This is commonly affected by
climate change and rainfall variability [21] and
[19]. Frequent droughts and famines occur in the
area [14], distressing livelihood strategies,
affecting food security often leading to
inappropriate farming methods and livelihood
intercession like charcoal burning and sand
harvesting which invariably affects the
environment [7] and [20]. Poverty is widespread,
coupled with lack of livelihoods diversification
and adequate economic opportunities [19] and
[20]. Farmers are faced with challenges such as
lack of capital and appropriate agricultural
technologies to maximize on crop production
[19]. Mitigation measures undertaken by farmers
to increase livelihood outcomes also have impact
on land management practices like soil and
water conservation which influence watershed
degradation. Inspite of the challenges, farmers in
their recognition of soil erosion drivers in their
farms, increased awareness of benefits of SWC
and adoption of modern farming technologies,
[14] and [18], as well as embracing afforestation
and conservation of indigineous forests, [5] have
an opportunity for enhanced livelihood resilience.
Rural livelihoods diversification and increased
off-farm activities, [12] and [19], will also
ensure, there is resilience and environmental
sustainabilty obtaining from their livelihoods
outcomes.
In Kaiti-sub-watershed, there exist gaps in
farmers’ knowledge on natural resource
management, Soil and Water Conservation
(SWC), appropriate crop and livestock production
skills with modern farming technologies [16] and
[22]. Soil and Water Management (SWM),
knowledge and commitment to sustained
practice, has declined as well as the neglect of
the old conservation measures and especially
the terraces structures. Earlier studies firmly
hailed the success of such conservation
measures in the area [15]. Despite the past
studies efforts to address some of the issues
affecting the watershed, these problems have not
been adequately addressed for effective
watershed management framework. Their focus
has been predominantly on famines and
droughts, agricultural production, agro-
pastoralism as means for livelihoods from crop
production, marketing, livestock keeping and sale
[14] and [19]. The intensive SWC practice was
happening more than three decades ago existing
in a different set of conditions with most of the
farmers who made those structures, being
beneficiaries of robust government supported
conservation Programmes, NGOs and enhanced
agricultural extension services. This paper
therefore addresses some of the pertinent issues
contributing to watershed degradation in the
study area to make recommendations on
appropriate remedies in dealing with these
problems.
2. METHODOLOGY
2.1 The Study Area
The study was done in Kaiti sub-watershed, and
data was collected between the months of June-
August 2015 using household survey, Focus
group Discussion and key informant
questionnaires. Kaiti sub-watershed was chosen
based on its high population density of 120,116
and 248 persons per square kilometre
respectively as compared to the average of 110
persons per square kilometre for the county [20].
According to Muriuki et al. [14], high population
has a bearing on the state of the watershed due
to the increasing human activities and their
effects on the wellbeing of the downstream
communities in the county. Soil erosion in the
sub-watershed is a major problem due to farming
on steep slopes with siltation of manmade
reservoirs experienced in the downstream of
Kaiti River.
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
4
Kaiti sub-watershed covers an area of 660 km2
and is located between 10º 38 South and 10º 51´
South and 37º14´ East and 37º41´ East. Kaiti
sub-watershed (Fig. 1) shows the specific study
site in Makueni County. It lies in the fertile upper
parts of the county which experience average
rainfall of 800 mm-1200 mm. It comprises of
Kilungu, Kee, Kalama, Kaiti and Wote divisions.
The sub-watershed topography is characterized
by mountainous terrain including Kilungu and
Mbooni hills. Kaiti River and its numerous
tributaries originating from the hills serve the
watershed which influence surface water sources
and ground water recharge capacity [14].
2.2 Data collection
The study used a descriptive survey research
design [24]. Both qualitative and quantitative
methods were used to gather and evaluate
primary and secondary data from the field and
past studies/reports respectively. The study used
multiple methods of data collection such as
field/household surveys, observations, Focus
Group Discussant interviews (FGDs) and key
informant/experts interviews to gather
information and sampling of households along a
vertical transect lines. It also used triangulation
which is a form of cross-checking and the use of
multiple methods both qualitative (inquiry) and
quantitative (validation) methods in studying the
same phenomenon for the purpose of increasing
study credibility [25].
Kaiti sub-watershed was purposively selected for
investigation based on its population distribution,
density and varied physical characteristics [14]
and [20]. Line transect approach [26] was used
as part of the sampling framework traversing
much of the ecological, socio-economic/land
uses and environmental variability in the study
site. Random point samples along the transect
line were used to sample respondents to obtain
information. Three divisions Kilungu, Kaiti and
Wote, which fall within the delineated boundaries
of Kaiti sub-watershed, were selected for
sampling of the respondents. Kilungu division
represented the upstream communities, Kaiti
division the midstream and Wote the
downstream communities of the sub-watershed.
A total of 51 respondents were interviewed. In
each of the 3 divisions 12 farmer respondents
were interviewed, additional 5 respondents from
each of the divisions from among those aged
above 60 years were interviewed. Thirty
respondents (30) for focus discussion groups
were interviewed in Kaiti division. The 20 key
informant respondents were drawn from among
people with technical expertise in the divisions
and from the county headquarters.
Fig. 1. Map of Kaiti sub-watershed
Source: Preserve Africa Initiative (PAFRI), [23]
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
5
2.3 Data Analysis
Data collected was managed and analysed using
Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS),
version 19 and Microsoft excel 2010. Descriptive
statistical tools like percentages, means and
frequencies were used to analyse quantitative
data.
3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
3.1 Socio-economic Characteristics of
Selected Households in the Study
Area
According to the results (Table 1), of the
surveyed 51 households, where semi-structured
interview questionnaires were administered 32%
of households had no formal education, 35% had
primary education. In the study area, male
headed households comprised of 69% while the
female headed households were 31%. The
majority of the respondents were women
because most of the men were out either in
employment or doing other off-farm activities.
The average household’s size was 6 members
and the average farm size was 4.3 acres. The
average age of the household heads was 57
years; with 32% of the household heads
reporting that they had no formal education.
These factors influenced watershed degradation,
as majority of these farmers relied on traditional
farming and livestock rearing methods as
opposed to modern agricultural practices, which
are known to enhance production and promote
soil and water conservation.
3.2 Household Livelihood Strategies
Availability of land and favourable climatic
conditions influences livelihood choices in the
study area. The study established that crop and
livestock production at 100% and 10%
respectively (Table 2), continue to be the
dominant livelihood strategies among the
households; providing them with food and their
financial needs. This is happening in the
background of considerable reduction of farm
sizes and grazing land in the study area.
Agro-pastoralism was found to be supplemented
by other non-farm activities like petty trade,
small-scale business enterprises at 24% and
unskilled casual labour representing 27%
respectively. Generally off-farm activities were
Table 1. Selected household characteristics (N=51)
Characteristics
Ecological
zones
Lower zone
wote
Mid zone
Kaiti
Upper zone
Kilungu
Kaiti
sub
-
watershed
Freq
%
Freq
%
Freq
%
Freq
%
Ave.
No. of Households
Gender of respondent
1. Male
2. Female
Gender of household-
head
1. Male
2. Female
Marital status
1. Married
2. Widowed
Mean age household-head
Household size
Educationhousehold-head
1. None
2. Primary
3. Secondary
4. Tertiary
Occupation
1. Farming
2. Livestock
Ave. in acres per farmer
17
3
13
10
7
10
7
60
6
5
7
5
2
17
3
8
100
24
76
59
41
59
41
-
-
30
41
29
-
100
18
-
17
6
11
14
3
13
4
55
6
8
4
5
-
17
1
3
100
35
65
82
18
76
24
-
-
41
24
29
-
100
6
-
17
3
14
11
6
11
6
56
6
4
7
5
-
17
1
2
100
18
82
65
35
65
35
-
-
24
41
29
-
100
6
-
51
13
38
34
17
34
16
-
-
17
18
15
2
51
5
-
100
25
75
69
31
67
33
-
-
32
35
29
3
100
10
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
57
6
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
4.3
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
6
Table 2. Household livelihoods strategies (N=51)
Livelihood component
Ecological Zones
Lower zone
Wote
Mid zone
Kaiti
Upper zone
Kilungu
Kaiti sub
watershed
Freq
%
Freq
%
Freq
%
Freq
%
Crop production
17 100 17 100 17 100 51 100
Livestock rearing
3 18 1 6 1 6 5 10
Small business/petty trade 3 18 5 30 4 24 12 24
Employed (salaried) 2 12 0 0 0 0 2 4
Daily wage labour (unskilled) 5 30 3 18 6 35 14 27
Firewood/charcoal 5 30 1 6 0 0 6 10
Timber harvesting 0 0 1 6 10 59 11 22
found to be limited with many people lacking
opportunities, even for casual jobs. The findings
indicated that both farm and off-farm activities
are influenced by the agro-ecological gradient
zones and climatic conditions in the study area.
Most of the households in the upper watershed
depended on local markets for their domestic
food consumption, because they hardly produced
enough food to take them through longer periods
in a year. These off-farm activities largely depend
on agriculture based economy, often affected by
climate change and the frequent droughts in the
area. Firewood and charcoal burning was also
reported to have been higher at 30% in Wote
(lower catchment area), with only one household
reported to have engaged in the activity in the
midstream watershed, while in the upper stream
none of the households engaged in charcoal
burning. Timber harvesting on the other hand
was reported by 59% of respondents in the upper
watershed area, 6% in Kaiti and none in Wote
area. The climatic conditions and altitude of
these areas were more favourable for agro-
forestry than in the low lands.
In addition to determination of livelihood
components of the people, where crop
production was identified as the major
component, the study went further to look at
types of crops grown. Growing of maize, millet,
sorghum, beans, cow peas, pigeon peas and
cow peas (Fig. 2), subsistence farming
represented the biggest type of land use in Kaiti
sub-watershed. Maize at 92% constituted the
largest percentage of land use grown by all the
farmers interviewed. In nearly all instances, it
was intercropped with pulses which, are seldom
planted alone in the area.
Fig. 2. Types of cereals grown in the watershed
Maize
92%
Sorghum
4%
Millet
2%
Finger millet
2%
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
7
Agro-forestry and activities such as planting of
Grevillea robusta and blue gum trees along farm
edges and rivers banks was common with
Grevillea robusta dominating the mid and the
lower catchment, while blue gum and other
exotic tree species were common in the upper
hilly parts of the watershed [14]. In the three
divisions, farmers in the recent years have
intensified agro-forestry activities with these tree
species also being found planted in the farms
forest reserves and in institutions like schools
and shopping centres.
Socio-economic factors were estimated using a
regression model with anthropogenic
independent variables against watershed
degradation causes (Table 4). The results from
the survey research showed that age, gender
and education levels of the household head were
significant at 10% in understanding watershed
degradation. Population growth, poverty,
landlessness, illegal encroachment, laxity in law
enforcement and inappropriate farming methods
were all significant at 10% in explaining
watershed degradation. The increase of men as
household heads increased the chances for
better watershed management (S.E=0.073 z=0.-
512 sig. =.0.609), while women being household
heads were likely to contribute to negative impact
on the watershed (S.E=0.103 z= 0.186 sig.
=0.853). This could be explained by the fact that
men have better income options and
employment opportunities, hence their ability to
afford and initiate soil conservation measures on
their farms. The increase of education levels of
the household head (S.E=0.159 z=0.455 sig.
=0.649) led to better soil and water management
while the increase in average farm size for the
families (S.E=0.133 z=0.095 z=1.395 sig. 0.163)
increased the chances of better management
and reduced degradation chances.
Increase in poverty was mentioned by 69%
(S.E=0.633 z=0.633 sig. 0.570) of the
respondents as another cause of degradation in
Kaiti. Livelihood strategies were limited and their
ability to sufficiently address the people’s basic
needs remained a major concern, largely
contributed by inadequate food security and
limited livelihood diversification options. People
require human and physical capital in order to
exploit the natural capital to the maximisation of
their livelihood outcomes [18]. Majority of the
households hardly produce enough food for their
domestic consumption and the little surplus and
horticultural produce they have is constrained by
lack of ready markets. Cash crop farming has
been on the decline, now practiced in
insignificant levels. Just like population growth
(90%) (S.E=0.633 z= -0.568 sig. = 0.570),
poverty is of major concern in the mid and the
lower watershed area due to minimal livelihood
diversification and limited off-farm activities.
Although cash crop farming of cotton is viable in
these areas, farmers have almost abandoned
growing it. Droughts and famines have also
depleted livestock or forced the farmers to keep
a number they can manage. Traditionally
livestock used to be a key source of income
especially in the lower area where ranching is
favourable.
About seventy five percent (S.E=0.376 z=-0689
sig.=0.491) of the respondents in Kaiti sub-
watershed felt that inappropriate farming
methods like inadequate SWC structures in
farms e.g. terraces and encroaching on fragile
ecosystems play a major role in watershed
Table 3. Socio- economic watershed degradation indicators (N=51)
Indicator
Ecological
zone
Lower zone
wote
Mid zone
Kaiti
Upper zone
Kilungu
Kaiti sub
watershed
Freq
%
Freq
%
Freq
%
Freq
%
Population growth
Increase in poverty
Inappropriate farming methods
Low food production
Reduced income/livelihoods
Landlessness
Laxity in law enforcement
Illegal encroachment*
17
12
14
15
12
1
9
2
100
71
82
88
71
6
53
12
16
11
15
16
11
6
4
3
94
70
88
94
65
36
24
18
13
12
10
9
15
13
1
4
76
71
59
53
88
76
6
24
46
35
39
40
38
20
14
9
90
69
76
78
75
39
27
18
* Steep slopes and riverbanks
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
8
Table 4. Logistic regression results for causes of watershed degradation
Parameter
Estimates
Std.
error
z
-
score
Significance
Age of household head male
Age of household head female
Education level of household head
Farm acreage
Population growth
Poverty
Landlessness
Illegal encroachment
Laxity in law enforcement
Inappropriate farming methods
-.037
.019
.072
.133
.359
-.221
.408
-.335
.109
-.259
.073
.103
.159
.095
.633
.362
.311
.555
.481
.362
-.512
.186
.455
1.395
-.568
-.610
1.311
-.604
.227
-.689
.609
.853
.649
.163
.570
.542
.190
.546
.821
.491
Note: Significance level of 10%
degradation. This situation is confounded by lack
of information and the decline of agricultural
ecosystems play a major role in watershed
degradation. This situation is confounded by lack
of information and the decline of agricultural
extension services. Many farmers interviewed
expressed the view that they are currently left on
their own in soil and water conservation matters
as well as obtaining information on appropriate
farming methods, except for the emerging trend
where the media and in particular the radio
offers most of the information on agriculture
and environmental conservation. Agricultural
extension services have declined over the years,
which have also affected farmer’s ability to
acquire and use appropriate farming
technologies. Low food production was reported
by the farmers 78% and reduced income and
livelihood by 75%, as consequences of
watershed degradation in the study area.
Landlessness 39% (S.E=0.311 z= 1.311
sig.0.190), illegal encroachment 18% (S.E=0.555
z= -0.604 sig.0.546), and laxity in law
enforcement 27% (S.E=0.481 z=0.227 sig.
0.821) were other factors mentioned by the
farmers as contributing to watershed
degradation.
3.3 Soil and Water Conservation
Measures as Land Management
Practices
Land management practices such as SWC
influences watershed degradation and crop
production levels. Farmers’ choices on SWC
practises determine productivity of their farm
plots and subsequent crop yields. The 1990s
decades saw the introduction of Structural
Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), the
government down-scaled agricultural extension
services and liberalised the agricultural and
marketing services which further affected the
farmer’s SWC measures in their farms. In the
2000 decades human settlement increased as
well as institution and infrastructure development
in form of roads and sub-surface dams and sand
dams and expansion of horticultural farming in
form of oranges, mangoes and avocado trees as
well as agro-forestry. This tremendous expansion
of farming activities occurred amidst lack of
proper land use management Programmes,
decline of conservation efforts, agricultural
extension services and enforcement of basic
SWM laws.
It was observed that SWC, (Fig. 3) is widely
practiced with 49% using bench `Fanya juu’
terraces, 6% narrow based terraces and 37%
napier grass, agro-forestry 6% and run-off water
harvesting 2%. Some farmers had cut off drains
to divert water from the roads and pathways into
their farms. Planting of Grevillea robusta and
blue gum crop trees along farm edges was
observed in all areas but were highly pronounced
in the mid and upper catchment areas. Despite
all these conservation measures, soil and water
erosion along the roads and river bank erosion
was commonly observed in the study area.
SWC is constrained by neglect of terrace
structures in most of the farms, with some not
laid into contour posing danger of increased
erosion in the farms, roads and in the open
fields. Most of the farmers admitted that their
terraces were done several years back and were
not regularly repaired as required. They cited
poverty and lack of resources as the reasons for
non-maintenance of terrace structures regularly.
Some farmers planted grass on the terraces
embankment which provided the much needed
livestock feed during drought and times of
scarcity, hence the reluctance to disturb the
structures in renewing the terraces. Government
efforts and involvement in SWC was found to
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
9
have declined in the area, with most of the
farmers disregarding, SWM measures and
regulations.
Most of the soil conservation structures
(terraces) were in a state of disrepair due to
negligence. SWC was observed to have been
highly practiced in the farms as opposed to the
open grazing fields, most of which were denuded
as a result of past overgrazing/overstocking and
general neglect by farmers. Gabion construction,
weirs and sand dams were observed across the
study area, with most of them undertaken by
NGOs and the local communities. Where these
structures were constructed, SWC was evident in
the form of regenerative land cover vegetation
and retention of sand and water in rivers and
streams.
3.4 Constraints to Livelihood Strategies
and Coping Mechanisms
The choice of livelihood strategies and mitigation
measures undertaken by farmers, often influence
watershed degradation. Using the Sustainable
Livelihood (SL) framework [27], the study
established that factors beyond farmers control
like poverty and climate change affect individual
farmer livelihood strategies, with varied
consequences to their livelihood outcomes and
the physical environment on which they depend
for their wellbeing. Their land management
practices, choice of crop varieties and land use
methods has impact on the health of the
watershed in terms of its continued productivity
and sustainability of the livelihood strategies.
The respondents indicated that high cost of
agricultural inputs, including labour, draught
power and improved drought resistant and
quality seeds, formed the bulky of farmer’s
constraints to adequate crop production
(Table 5).
To the majority of the households, family labour
(63%) was the main mode in crop production. In
the past, farmers reported that they relied on
their children for their farm labour requirements.
Most of them now are in schools. Majority of
those who complete their education ignore
farming and immigrate to the urban centres and
cities in search of jobs. To mitigate these
problems, some farmers (35%) resorted to hired
labour of people and draughts animals to do the
tilling and weeding. However, they insisted that
the initial capital inputs in such measures more
than often exceeded the returns from their crop
production, owing to high rate of crop failure and
farm produce marketing limitations. Communal
labour in form of ``mwethya’’ (Self Help Groups)
has been on the decline or not evident in the
area. Most of the activities of these groups are
largely confined to merry go round and welfare,
unlike in the past when they were involved in soil
and water conservation efforts.
Ninety four percent of the farmers indicated they
used manure or fertiliser in their farms, 69% use
improved planting materials, (drought resistant
quality seeds), while 94% of the farmers revealed
that they use intercropping to mitigate the high
rate of crop failure due to rainfall variability and
frequent droughts in the area. The diminishing
farm sizes also influence intercropping to
maximise and diversify their crop varieties.
Fig. 3. Soil and water conservation
Bench
terracing
49%
Napier/Grass
strips
37%
Narrow based
terraces
6%
Agro-forestry
6%
Run-off water
harvesting
2%
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
10
Table 5. Crop production constraints and mitigation (Kaiti sub watershed) (N=51)
Indicator
% of farmers
reporting constraint
% of farmers identifying
indicator as mitigation factor
Use of family labour
Use of manure/fertiliser
Use of improved planting materials
Cropping system
Use of recent harvest for consumption
Months harvest lasted < Half a year
Regular selling of farm produce
Indigenous cattle ownership
Improved dairy breeds
Place of produce sale
1. Middlemen
2. Local market
3. Cereal Board
4. Cooperative
63
94
69
Inter cropping (94)
82
92
43
84
6
35
49
6
10
35
6
31
Mono cropping (6)
18 (sold)
8> Half year
57
16
94
These measures however are faced with
numerous problems, including high unit cost of
the inputs. Use of fertilisers is pegged on the
goodwill of the government supplies which is
erratic and irregular. Most of the farmers could
not afford it from commercial outlets and when
they buy, it is usually in small quantities not
adequate for their farms.
Some farmers also acknowledged that they apply
fertiliser when it is available and may go for
several seasons without applying any fertiliser.
Manure application faces a similar dilemma as
livestock numbers decline. Most of the farmers
lack adequate farm yard manure (FYM) to apply
on their farms. It was found that FYM (63%), was
widely used in the lower watershed area where it
is found to be plenty as opposed to the mid and
the upstream watershed areas where farmers
kept less livestock. Continuous planting of maize
on the same plot was noticed in all the areas. It
may not auger well for crop production due to the
threat of crop diseases and the decline of soil
fertility [14].
All the households had planted food crops in the
last season, October- December 2014 short rains
and harvested. A large number of the
respondents 82% reported to have used the
harvest for domestic consumption as opposed to
only 18% who got surplus to sell. The rains were
erratic, unevenly distributed and short lived which
affected crop production to the majority of the
farmers. Over 92% of the respondents indicated,
that the harvest was projected to last less than 6
months. It was only 43% of the farmers who said
they regularly sold their food, when they had
surplus from their farms depending on availability
of adequate rainfall during the planting season. A
large proportion at 57% did not have surplus to
sell. The majority of those who regularly had
surplus (staple food, cereals and legumes) were
found to be in the lower and the mid-stream
watershed area.
Marketing of farm produce in the study area was
faced with numerous challenges. The study
revealed that 49% and 35% of the respondents
(Fig. 4) sold their farm produce in the
local market centres and to middlemen/
brokers respectively. The study established
that most of the farmers felt that they were
exploited in these marketing avenues, where the
prices were low making them unable to get
maximum returns for their farm produce.
The study indicated that 84% and 6%
respectively of the households kept indigenous
and improved dairy breeds in the area. The
average number of indigenous cattle per farmer
has significantly dropped due to diminishing
grazing land for majority of the farmers. Some
farmers were found to lack adequate SWM skills
leading to the decline of crop and livestock
production. This situation impacts negatively to
the people’s livelihoods increasing their
vulnerability as well as that of the immediate
environment upon which they depend to derive
their livelihoods. The depression of their
economic wellbeing thus predisposes them to
inappropriate farming methods and
unsustainable livelihood strategies such as
charcoal burning, sand harvesting and brick
making, commonly found near river banks,
and contributing to serious watershed
degradation.
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
11
Fig. 4. Marketing of farm produce in the watershed
4. CONCLUSION
There is watershed degradation in Kaiti sub-
county owing to choices of livelihood strategies
and inappropriate land use systems. Population
growth and demographic changes over the years
has influenced watershed degradation in the
area. High poverty rates, diminishing farm sizes
and encroachment of fragile ecosystems as well
as frequent droughts and climate change have
also impacted negatively on food production.
Farmers are increasingly adopting unsustainable
livelihood strategies, unsuitable agricultural
technologies and inappropriate land use and
farming methods. Watershed degradation occurs
with the threat of increasing environmental
problems; which continue to impact negatively on
their livelihood strategies. Unsustainable
exploitation of natural resources and
inappropriate land use methods, leads to
further decline of the ecosystems ability to
adequately provide environmental goods and
services.
Watershed degradation, therefore is much driven
by direct (Anthropogenic) causes like poor
land use policies/management and planning,
unfavourable climatic conditions, continuous
farming in the same plots and overgrazing.
Limited livelihoods options (Diversification), lack
of conservation rules enforcement, inadequate
(coordination) watershed management activities
and limited or declining SWM knowledge are
some of the indirect root causes of watershed
degradation. Food insecurity in the area has
considerably increased, leaving people with food
shortages for domestic consumption and surplus
for sale. This scenario limits their ability to meet
their daily food and financial needs. The farmers
are therefore predisposed to adopting
unsustainable livelihood strategies further
increasing their vulnerability and the general
watershed degradation which affects its
environmental health and integrity.Based on the
findings the study recommends the county and
national governments implement policies and
strategies that can improve farmer’s choices in
increased crop/livestock production. This will
enable for them to meet their livelihood outcomes
e.g. food requirements and financial needs and
motivate them to conserve the environment by
adopting sustainable livelihood strategies. This
can be achieved through design of pro-poor
safety net programmes, value addition, improving
food security/quality, minimising the risks of
diseases for both human and livestock, as well
as improved agricultural and animal husbandry
practices.
Kieti et al.; JSRR, 12(2): 1-13, 2016; Article no.JSRR.28412
12
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors acknowledge all the respondents
who actively and willingly participated in
providing the much needed information
during the study. We also thank Makueni
County Government and Non-Governmental
organizations’ officials who provided required
information especially as key informants during
the study.
COMPETING INTERESTS
Authors have declared that no competing
interests exist.
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provided the original work is properly cited.
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http://sciencedomain.org/review-history/16440
... This in turn has caused increased surface runoff, flash flooding, reduced infiltration and increased soil erosion and siltation of the existing water harvesting structures. This was confirmed by Kieti et al, (2016) who reported that once watershed and catchment ecosystems are interfered with, they cease to supply essential ecological goods and services. ...
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From local watershed management to Integrated River Basin Management at National and Transboundary Levels; Mekong River commission
  • H Bach
  • T J Claussen
  • T T Nang
  • L Emerton
  • T Facon
  • T Hofer
  • K Lazarus
  • C Muziol
  • A Noble
  • P Shill
  • A Sigouvaanh
  • C Wensley
  • L Whiting
Bach H, Claussen TJ, Nang TT, Emerton L, Facon T, Hofer T, Lazarus K, Muziol C, Noble A, Shill P, Sigouvaanh A, Wensley C, Whiting L. From local watershed management to Integrated River Basin Management at National and Transboundary Levels; Mekong River commission, Lao PDR. 2011;3-12.
United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Africa environment outlook-2, our environment our wealth Danish Development Assistance (DANIDA) Assessment of potential approaches to charcoal as a sustainable source of income in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya
DOI: 10. 1002/ldr. 2379 6. United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Africa environment outlook-2, our environment our wealth. Nairobi: UNEP. 2006;2-5. 7. Danish Development Assistance (DANIDA). Assessment of potential approaches to charcoal as a sustainable source of income in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya; 2003.