The potential role of jatropha curcas l. for environmental management and sustainable livelihoods in kibwezi, kenya
Maingi, Regina Nthambi
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It is widely acknowledged that environmental degradation and poverty are positively correlated. Environmental degradation remains a persistent problem in the arid and semi-arid lands in Kenya. Addressing this problem calls for a wide range of interventions. Although several measures have been used to control and prevent degradation, the use of Jatropha curcas has not received much attention in Kenya. This may be attributed to lack of awareness among farmers on the potential role of the plant in environmental management, besides its use as a bio-fuel. As such the overall aim of this study was to assess the opportunities and challenges of scaling-up Jatropha curcas for environmental restoration and enhanced livelihoods among farmers in Mtito Andei in order to maximize on its benefits, which have been observed in other parts of the world. Data was collected using questionnaires, interviews and observation checklists. Farmers with Jatropha curcas plants were grouped into strata based on locations as administrative units. The sample size of the adopters was determined by Fischer formula n = z2 pq ∕d2. An equal number of non-adopters was used. From each stratum, probability proportional to size sampling was used to identify the number of adopters. Purposive sampling was used to identify key informants from government departments and Non-Governmental organisations. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics with the aid of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Chi square test was used to determine the relationship between knowledge on the various benefits of Jatropha curcas and adoption. Results showed that there was a significant difference (p < 0.05) between adopters and non-adopters on their knowledge of the various benefits of Jatropha. Adoption of Jatropha as a potential income crop was mainly influenced by farmer’s knowledge on Jatropha and access to extension services. Gross margin analysis showed that Jatropha curcas was not economically attractive in the first 5 years compared to the major crops grown in the area. For scaling-up purposes the key factors would be: training on benefits and production of Jatropha curcas, formation of common interest groups, signing of contracts, and training on local utilization of Jatropha curcas. To maximise the potential of the crop as a business calls for strategic extension services through partnership between the ministry of agriculture and the NGOs and private partners working on the crop in the area. To maximise economic benefits, the Government should assess and if viable implement the Bio-diesel strategy as a way of enhancing Jatropha curcas production on a long-term basis. This calls for strategic partnerships with private sector and the Kenya Forestry Research Institute to inculcate entrepreneurial competences within the farming community. Jatropha could be easily integrated in the micro-catchments for water harvesting already used by most farmers.