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The Impact of Communal Enclosures in the Rehabilitation of Degraded Lands in the Njemps Flats Kenya

Rebecca N. Karaya

Egerton University, Kenya

Kenya is one of the Sub-Saharan African countries facing problems of environmental degradation in its rangelands. In particular, the problem is severe in the Njemps Flats of in the Northern rift valley where environmental degradation is threatening agro-pastoralists livelihoods. Top-down methods and policy efforts to stem degradation while facilitating rehabilitation dates back to the colonial times and have had little success pointing to the importance of farmers’ participation in the generation of location and context-specific Sustainable Land Management Practices (SMLP). The communal enclosure is a strategy introduced by a local Charitable organization that sought community groups participating in the rehabilitation of severely degraded communal lands. This study investigated the effect of participation in community groups managing communal enclosures on members’ livelihoods and on the adoption of SLMP at the household level. A comparative analysis was performed by investigating group participants and non-participants. Data was collected from a sample of 150 smallholder agro-pastoralists using questionnaires. Seventy-nine respondents belonged to community groups managing communal enclosures while 71 did not belong to the groups. Five key informants were interviewed and two focus group discussions held. Positive impacts of communal enclosures were reported as rehabilitation of degraded lands, livelihood diversification, pasture conservation, and sharing of SLMP knowledge. Negative impacts of enclosing community land were reported as a loss of communal grazing fields, land fragmentation, a decrease in nomadism, and economic stratification. Adoption of SLMP by households was influenced by participation in community groups managing communal enclosures and members whose groups partnered with development agencies like extension and NGOs had members reporting higher household adoption levels of SLMP than those without partnerships. The study recommends that the government and donor agencies work with grassroots organizations to develop context and location-specific SLM practices for the rehabilitation of degraded drylands.

L'impact des clôtures communales dans la réhabilitation des terres dégradées dans les plaines de Njemps Kenya

Rebecca N. Karaya

Université Egerton, Kenya

Le Kenya est l’un des pays d’Afrique subsaharienne confrontés à des problèmes de dégradation de l’environnement dans ses parcours. En particulier, le problème est grave dans les plaines Njemps de la vallée du nord du Rift où la dégradation de l’environnement menace les moyens de subsistance des agro-éleveurs. Les méthodes descendantes et les efforts politiques pour endiguer la dégradation tout en facilitant la réhabilitation remontent à l’époque coloniale et ont eu peu de succès, soulignant l’importance de la participation des agriculteurs à la création de sites et de pratiques de gestion durable des terres (SMLP) spécifiques au contexte. L’enceinte communale est une stratégie mise en place par une organisation caritative locale qui recherchait des groupes communautaires participant à la réhabilitation des terres communales gravement dégradées. Cette étude a examiné l’effet de la participation à des groupes communautaires gérant des enclos communaux sur les moyens de subsistance des membres et sur l’adoption du SLMP au niveau des ménages. Une analyse comparative a été réalisée en enquêtant sur les participants du groupe et les non-participants. Les données ont été collectées auprès d’un échantillon de 150 petits éleveurs agro-pastoraux à l’aide de questionnaires. Soixante-dix-neuf répondants appartenaient à des groupes communautaires gérant des enclos communaux, tandis que 71 n’appartenaient pas à ces groupes. Cinq informateurs clés ont été interrogés et deux discussions de groupe ont eu lieu. Les impacts positifs des enclos communaux ont été signalés comme la réhabilitation des terres dégradées, la diversification des moyens de subsistance, la conservation des pâturages et le partage des connaissances SLMP. Les impacts négatifs de la fermeture des terres communautaires ont été signalés comme une perte de pâturages communaux, une fragmentation des terres, une diminution du nomadisme et une stratification économique. L’adoption du SLMP par les ménages a été influencée par la participation aux groupes communautaires gérant les enclos communaux et aux membres dont les groupes en partenariat avec les agences de développement comme la vulgarisation et les ONG avaient des membres rapportant des niveaux d’adoption des ménages plus élevés du SLMP que ceux sans partenariat. L’étude recommande que le gouvernement et les agences donatrices travaillent avec les organisations de base pour développer des pratiques de GDT spécifiques au contexte et à l’emplacement pour la réhabilitation des zones arides dégradées.

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11 Responses

  1. The presentation hints at the question, “What would a more inclusive approach to rehabilitation in this context look like?” Other pastoral groups such as the Borana in southern Ethiopia have a forms of communal enclosures/exclosures which appear to be more inclusive of the entire community.

    1. Exactly. Enclosures have been practiced in Borana for a long time, which are primarily used as community rangeland reserves for calves during the dry season. But in the recent two decades, private enclosures for crop cultivation are also getting very common.

      1. just like the Borana, crop and grown pasture (as opposed to natural pastures) enclosures are on the increase in the Njemps mainly as a means for livelihood diversification.

    2. the question of inclusivity did arise in the course of the study. the community members are allowed to access the enclosure for dry season grazing at a fee. the number of livestock each household can take to enclosure is determined by the group. the group managing enclosure is also expected to use 10% of the returns for community work.

  2. This is interesting. Related to the comment above by Lance it would be good to get a response on how ‘various interests’ among the herders are being affected.

    There is mention of SLM at the Household level – which households? I presume not all?

    1. the question of inclusivity did arise in the course of the study. the community members are allowed to access the enclosure for dry season grazing at a fee. the number of livestock each household can take to enclosure is determined by the group. the group managing enclosure is also expected to use 10% of the returns for community work.

    2. sorry for the double posting. Loss of communal grazing land as a result of enclosures was a concern especially with restricted movement arising from both communal and private enclosures. however there are disgnated watering points along rivers and the lake that are freely accessible to all.

  3. I enjoyed the presentation very much and have two questions, which are similar to the ones asked by Everisto and Lance.

    First, is there a correlation between individual ownership of land and the adoption of SLMP?

    Second, can anyone become member of a group? How are groups organized? What are the criteria for group membership?

    Third, do pastoralists still migrate or move with their livestock or is this really a thing of the past? What do pastoralists do when there is a drought? Do they move elsewhere or stay put?

    1. all the surveyed households owned land individually. this land is communal, but has been informally dermacated and the owners are recognized by the rest of the community and operate it as individual land.

      the groups were formed as farmers self help groups before establishment of the enclosures. anyone can join the groups but have to pay a joining fee. the higher the benefits the higher the joining fee. benefits include income from selling grass seeds, income from hay sale, dry season grazing and income from honey and beeswax dependen on how well group is perfomimg.

      Cattle migration has greatly decreased. mainly because of insecurity. See Clemens Greiner Guns, land, and votes: Cattle rustling and the politics of boundary (re)making in Northern Kenya
      High population growth and the informal privatisation together with the accompanying enclosures men there isnt large unoccupied land to migrate to. herders may take their cattle to friends who have bigger pieces of land during dry seasons. Again some large tracts of land have been claimed and are not in use or enclosed, those areas are still grazed on. Migration is not completely dead but it has greatly decreased. 78 % of my survey respondents said it had declined while my FGD said it had decreased with over 70%.

  4. Enjoyed your presentation, and great to see some positive outcomes on the enclosed land. A broader picture on the entire herding landscape can better reveal the pros and cons?

    1. yeap, am sure a broader picture can do that. i did look at land use and cover change as a factor of land degradation and that cover more on nomadism. though that isnt part of this presentation.

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