Effects of Integrated Tree Based Food-Energy System on the Livelihoods of Small-Holder Farmers’ Perceptions in Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya
Sebastian, Paul Kinyua
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Tree Based Integrated Food-energy System is a farming system that combines food crops and trees for wood energy production on the same farm. This farming system aims at producing both food and wood energy on the same piece of land through sustainable crop integration and agro-systems. Therefore, this study was aimed at examining how this system can promote the livelihoods of small-holder farmers in Kenya, with particular focus on Chuka Igambang’ombe Sub-county in Tharaka Nithi County. This study sought: to evaluate ways in which integrated tree farming can be a source of income to smallholder farmers in Kenya; to assess the extent to which integrated tree farming can be a source of food to small-holder farmers in Kenya; to assess how integrated tree farming can be a source wood energy to small-holder farmers in Kenya; and to explore ways in which integrated tree farming can lead to environmental conservation in Kenya. The study adopted a descriptive study design and used random sampling method to sample 385 respondents from all five locations of Chuka Igambang’ombe Sub-county in Tharaka Nithi County. The study collected both qualitative and quantitative data using the questionnaire as the main research tool. The first, second and third objectives were analyzed using quantitative methods while qualitative methods were used to analyze the fourth objective. The collected data was analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The collected data was analyzed, interpreted and presented in form of tables, charts and correlations. From the study, it was observed that the majority of the farmers plant calliandra tree species at an average of 850 trees per farm. The abundance of this tree species, which mainly act as fodder, shows the extent to which farmers embrace daily farming in this region. The findings also showed that Grevillea robusta and Eucalyptus species, were most common timber production species and Coffea arabica as the main cash crop in Igambang’ombe Constituency. From the findings it was found that Tree Based Integrated Food-energy Systems (TBIFES) as a source of income can lead to a statistically significant (p=0.016<0.05) effect on the small-holder farmer’s livelihood. The majority of the respondents opined that that TBIFES can be a reliable source of food for small-holder farmers. The farmers also felt that TBIFES can help in promoting food security. However, the 86% of the farmers felt that the government was not performing its role in promoting the uptake of TBIFES through provision of incentives and advocacy programs. Furthermore, majority of respondents also felt that the government was limiting the potential of TBIFES as a source of sustainable energy for small-holder farmers due to its lack of commitment to the TBIFES through offering of incentives, support services and advocacy that would improve the uptake of this system of farming. According to the farmers, the tree based integrated food and energy systems farming can help in the efforts towards the conservation of the environment. However, majority (83.6%) of the respondents indicated that the government should improve its efforts to offer support and incentives to the small-holder farmers to increase their adoption of tree based integrated food and energy systems in Igambang’ombe Constituency. Further, the government can also improve the outcome of the TBIFES through advocacy programs. The study recommends that there should be proper law enforcement to sensitize and enhance environmental conservation measures. Moreover, farmers should be educated and sensitized on the need for growing more fruit trees to promote food security.