Tree Cover Perspectives and Climate Change Resilience in the Drylands of Matungulu Sub-County, Machakos County, Kenya
Mutuku, Heeran M.
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Rapid population growth, increasing demand for land, over-exploitation and the degradation of local natural resources have led to serious socio-ecological challenges in Matungulu Sub-county. This situation, compounded by the effects of climate change, has impacted negatively on the livelihood resilience of the local people. The specific objectives of this study were to: analyze tree cover trends in Matungulu Sub-county between 1987 and 2017; examine major socio-economic factors that influence tree cover; assess farmers’ perceptions of the effects of climate change on tree cover; examine the role of tree cover in community resilience against poverty and effects of climate change; and identify specific constraints that have hampered improvement of tree cover in the Subcounty. Systematic random sampling was used to collect data from 412 farmers in the study area. A structured questionnaire, FDGs, key informants and direct observations were used to collect household socio-economic data. Landsat maps for historical analysis of land cover change and climate data in Matungulu Sub-county were used to study changes in tree cover and climate parameters over the three-decade period. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used in the data analysis. Results showed that forest cover reduced by 64% over the 30-year period (from 17,044 ha to 6,136 ha) while all other land uses increased (farming by 34%, shrubs by 9%, water by 245% and urban settlements by 600%) in the same period. A logistic regression model with R statistics was used to test for relationships between tree cover (dependent variable) and the socio-economic parameters. Socio-economic variables that significantly influenced tree management included gender (p= 0.011), house-hold size (p=0.030), and title deed ownership (p=0.023). Majority (84%) of respondents perceived climate change to have occurred over the 1987-2017 period. Farmer-perceived climatic patterns in the area over the same period were corroborated by data from the Kenya Meteorological Department. Farmers used trees to enhance their resilience against effects of climate change and poverty. Respondents had 58 different types of tree species, all for different roles and uses. Major tree species included Eucalyptus saligna, Grevillea robusta, Mangifera indica, Persea americana, Croton megalocarpus, and Terminalia brownie. Tree uses included firewood, timber, charcoal, poles, shade, utensils, fodder, food and medicine besides others. Environmental benefits of trees included soil erosion control (27%), mulch (15%), soil fertility (13%), aesthetics (10%) and pest control (3%). 79% of the respondents had experienced lack of information (24%), lack of capital (24%) and lack of water for seedlings (20%) as constraints to tree cover. The study concluded that there was overall tree cover loss over the three decades and recommends afforestation and reforestation programmes and incorporation of local participation and use of indigenous knowledge in climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions in Matungulu Sub-county