Emerging Land Use Changes-Climatic Variability Nexus in Meru County, Kenya
Obando, Joy Apiyo
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The interplay between land use changes and climate variability are potential causes for the declining agricultural productivity in Meru County. Given that the agroecological disparities are attributable to the topography, a toposequence analysis of land use changes and climate variability was carried out in the major sub-agroecological zones of Meru County. Data on land use change and rainfall was triangulated with that of household survey, focused groups and in-depth interviews. Land use changes along the agroecological zones were consequently explained by various factors including climatic variability. There were marked land use changes in six of the seven major sub-Agro-ecological zones between 1976 and 2007. In low highland 1, upper midland 1, 2 and 3 and low midland 3, areas under agricultural land use increased while that under forest decreased further, in low midland 6 shrubs were replaced by rainfed crops (r² = 0.98) an indication that natural vegetation was being cleared for cultivation. Such practices constitute injurious land use and management tendencies. The upper midland zone described as coffee zone was converted into bananas as the main cotton zone (LM3) evolved to irrigated crops. There was a detrimental land use trend where area under natural vegetation decreased as cultivated area increased therefore necessitating liberation of land under other uses for forest establishment. Mitigation of negative effects of climate variability on land use which focuses on seasonal land use patterns for enhanced land use performance or productivity are imperative. The agroecological differences in rainfall variability and land use changes call for tailored interventions that target specific sub-agro ecological zones.