Assessment of erosion damage in Ndome and Ghazi, Taita Taveta, Kenya: Towards an integrated erosion management approach
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Aerial photograph interpretation on erosion trends from 1961 to 1998 showed that by 1998, approximately 17 and 50% of agricultural land in Ndome and Ghazi respectively had been permanently lost due to the combined effect of rill, inter-rill, and gully erosion, and sand deposition. Although abnormally heavy rains received between 1996–98 caused much of the present land damage, the severity of the damage was enhanced by inappropriate and persistent human perturbations in the land-system notably through vegetative degradation and destruction of soil structure through inappropriate tillage practices. With soil organic matter contents of 1.6 and 1.9%, and clay ratios of 10.1 and 10.6 for Ndome and Ghazi, respectively, the areas inherent erodibility was considered as high thus pointing to the need for careful use and management of the soil resource. That farmers appreciated only land quality indicators that were visible to the naked eye and that directly affected their subsistence, revealed a knowledge gap that saw damages from intrinsic processes like rill and inter-rill erosion proceed unnoticed. This paper argues that the spread of erosion damage in rural agro-ecosystems is survival-driven. And as a remedy to this problem, there is need for the diversification of livelihood endeavours to alternative off-farm income sources to reduce pressure on the already fragile land resource. Further, being the ultimate implementers of conservation technologies and by virtue of the multiplicity and inter-relation of rural household needs, adoption of an integrated erosion management approach with food security as paramount presents the most practical entry point for sustainable land management in such rural agro-ecosystems.