The effects of cultural practices and perspectives on sustainable community based ecosystem management in Lake Baringo, Kenya
Environmental degradation has been common phenomenon in various ecosystems in various parts of the world. This is a result of an interaction of multifaceted nexus of social-economic, technological and institutional factors which are either natural or human induced. In East Africa and Kenya in particular degradation of ecosystems is common as characterized by occurrences such as sedimentation in lakes. Lake Baringo in Kenya is one such ecosystem that is currently threatened by degradation needs innovative measures to be conserved. A study by Odada and others (2004) identified socio-cultural factors such as cultural beliefs as key contributors to degradation of this ecosystem. Given this scenario, this study’s general objective was to analyze how culture affects resource utilization and conservation by the ethnic groups living in Lake Baringo ecosystem. Specifically it aimed at evaluating the natural resource utilization and establishing the environmental conservation cultural practices and perspectives of the people to determine how they affect resource use and management of Lake Baringo ecosystem. The study sample involved 378 members from 3 ethnic groups namely Pokot, Njemps and Tugen who live in Lake Baringo ecosystem who were selected using simple random sampling procedure. The study utilized descriptive survey method where data was collected using semi structured questionnaires administered to household heads and face to face interviews with key informants including staff from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. The data collected was analyzed using Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS). Quantitative data was analyzed through descriptive analysis inform of percentages, frequencies and chi square test. Pearson-chi squared test was used to establish association between culture and environmental management. The study revealed that the livelihood systems for the 3 ethnic groups native in Lake Baringo ecosystem depend on the ecosystem. The study also revealed that the three ethnic groups believe in and practice environmental cultural practices, values and norms including but not limited to belief in God/supernatural beings, upholding plants of cultural value, attachment to livestock and practice of initiation. Chi squared test indicated that there exists a strong significant relationship between cultural aspects such as cultural values and norms and environmental management (2=297, df =2, P<0.001). The study concluded that culture is a fundamental determinant of environmental attitudes which influence environmental attitudes and values and behavior. The study recommends that policy makers utilize a culture-specific approach in designing environmental policies to develop culturally appropriate environmental laws, regulations and policies. This is to ensure that the rights, livelihoods, and culture of communities are considered in designing of environmental laws, policies and regulations and the communities are actively involved in design of policies for sustainable environmental conservation and management.