Shifting Irrigation and its Effects on Community Livelihood and Environmental Quality in The Lower Ewaso Nyiro Basin, Isiolo District
This study set out to investigate the effects of shifting irrigation system on community livelihood and environmental quality along the Ewaso Nyiro river basin. The land area under irrigation schemes in Kenya is estimated at 103,233 hectares. 20% of this hectarage is under smallholder irrigation schemes some of which are in the lower Ewaso Nyiro Basin. These schemes have special features in that they are not permanent. The objectives of this study are to asses the current status of irrigation schemes in the lower Ewaso Nyiro basin, evaluate their effect on community livelihoods and evaluate their impact on environmental quality. The overall approach to the study was both qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative data was collected through participatory research techniques, case studies, observation, and key informant interviews. Questionnaire survey was the main quantitative research technique used. Data from questionnaire survey was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). Qualitative data analysis was mainly descriptive. Narrative log was used to analyse data from case studies. Qualitative information proved useful in explaining some of the quantitative information. By the time of the study, the lower Ewaso Nyiro had nine operational irrigation schemes and 791 households practising irrigation farming. Though the schemes have a management unit, most of them are not formally recognised. There was a positive correlation between the number of years in crop production and the number of times a scheme shifted its sites(r=O.456) at 0.001 significant level. The irrigation schemes do not have permanent structures and use surface irrigation methods.• Maize is the major crop grown in the irrigation scheme and crop diversification is low. Irrigation has diversified the means of livelihood of the people. 100% of the household heads reported that irrigation was an important means of livelihood. Out of these, 35% reported that trade in agricultural produce was important means of livelihood. 3.8% said agricultural casual labour was important means of livelihood. The stakeholders agreed that irrigation was an important source of food in the lower Ewaso Nyiro basin(x2=5.12; df=3; p=0.163). Both the household heads and other stakeholders concurred that irrigation had negative effects on the environment (x2 =5.785; df=2; p=O.055). Types of environmental degradation reported in the schemes by household heads were soil erosion by 91.2%, deforestation by 72.5%, salinity by 31% and water logging by 20% of the households. Low usage of biocide and chemical fertilizers was reported with the highest usage being on insecticides by 46% of the household heads. Environmental conservation practices are rarely used in the irrigation schemes with the highest conservation practice reported on •the usage of farm yard manure by 56.2% of the household heads. The stakeholders agreed there was limitation of technical know how and lack of input in environmental conservation at chi square values (x2=7.672; df=3; p=0.053) and (x2=2.671; df=3; p=O.445). In the short term, the study recommends portable means of lifting water from the river, organized marketing in the irrigation schemes and environmental conservation at the household level and at the scheme level. The long term recommendations are flood control at the catchment level and an investigation into the feasibility of setting up permanent irrigation schemes in the study area.