Wetland Utilization and Community Perception on Payment for Ecosystem Services in Conservation of Nyando Wetland of the Lake Victoria Basin, Kenya
Maithya, Joseph Kasua
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People's livelihoods especially those living near wetlands in developing countries are often directly dependent on wetlands and watersheds through provision of food, water and biomass. The high rural population density within Lake Victoria is rapidly enhancing urbanization, land conversion to settlement, agriculture and industry. These activities have resulted to depletion of wetland resources and threaten the Lake wetland ecology and livelihoods of the local communities. The aim of this study was to examine the utilization and evaluate payment for ecosystem services within the Nyando wetland for enhanced environmental sustainability and community livelihoods. The objectives of the study were to investigate institutional arrangements governing conservation of Nyando wetland resources, examine the utilization of Nyando wetland ecosystem services, and examine the local community’s perception on payment for ecosystem services in Nyando wetland. The study uses two theories namely the social-ecological systems and the driving force state response framework. A case study survey design approach was employed for data collection. A stratified random sampling based on two administrative sub-counties namely Nyando and Nyakach was employed to collect data at household level using a structured questionnaire. A total of 394 households were sampled. In-depth interviews were undertaken with key informants from governmental and non-governmental organizations and members of the local community. The quantitative data was subjected to descriptive statistics, Chi-square test and correlation analysis which were performed in SPSS version 20. The data was presented in figures and tables. Content analysis was performed on qualitative data whereas land use/cover change analysis was performed for land use change detection. The results show that the local community mainly depend on the wetland for farming, harvesting of firewood and papyrus, and fishing for both domestic and commercial use. Human disturbance from vegetation clearing and burning for agriculture and settlement, climate change and variability, and inefficient resource governance has resulted to reduction in the size of the wetland by -2,933.1 Ha (-24.4%) between 1985-2020 which has consequently affected the availability of its ecosystem services. Both informal and formal institutions exist in the conservation of Nyando wetland with the former having evolved over time and were gaining little appreciation as a result of commercialization of farming activities, ethnic mix, modernization and influences from the western culture. Several conservation initiatives including tree planting activities, flood control, education and capacity building were taking place in the area being championed by either County governmental or Non-governmental organizations. Lack of resources (33.3%), high poverty and limited knowledge amongst the local community (28.6%) and policy conflicts and duplications resulting to poor organizational coordination (23.8%) are the main challenges to effective enforcement of conservation rules. Lack of awareness was cited as the reason for non-familiarity with the payment for ecosystem services concept. This study recommends Nyando wetland boundary delineation, co-management of the wetland resources, adoption of sustainable alternative livelihood activities and payment for ecosystem services, and harmonization of the different legislations contained in many pieces of government frameworks in-order to achieve coherence in sustainable management and conservation of wetlands.