Settlement Schemes and Their Implication on Eastern Mau Watershed, Nakuru County, Kenya
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Settlement schemes are aimed at settling landless people and those displaced by disasters to support socio-economic and environmental development of a country. Eastern Mau Forest Reserve is an important watershed that has settlement schemes established, which has led to encroachments and degradation of the watershed. This study, therefore, assessed the implications of human settlements on Eastern Mau watershed by examining the trends in land use/cover change, settlement schemes and river flows for four decades, from 1979 to 2020. Eastern Mau Forest Reserve is a major water tower therefore the large tracts of land that have been cleared coupled with the settlements in it is a worrying trend. It is essential to develop an approach that will aid in assessing land use land cover changes and effects on hydrological components at catchment level to aid in planning, use and management of resources. Primary data was collected from key informant interviews based on purposive sampling. Secondary data was derived from Landsat satellite images over a 10-year period and analysed using Maximum Likelihood Function from ArcGIS. Data on river flows from River Njoro was obtained from Water Resources Authority Office in Nakuru County for 1979-2020. Rainfall data for 1979-2020 was obtained from Kenya Meteorological Station, Nakuru Town. Time series analysis is used to understand the trend in river flows over time while Pearson correlation is used to determine relationship between farmlands and river flows. The results indicate a sharp decline in forest cover by 42.7% and an increase in farmlands by 41%. Dense vegetation and farmlands have an inverse relationship as an increase in farmlands lead to a decrease in forest cover and vice versa. People have settled beyond the established settlement schemes leading to encroachment and drying up of some rivers. There is also an increase in rainfall and river flows over the years, with monthly river flows increasing in peak flows and declining during low seasons. There is a positive correlation between farmlands and river flows between 1989 and 2020. Settlements affect land cover that in turn affects forests and impacts capacity of land to absorb rainfall water, which leads to higher runoff and subsequently higher flows. There is need for regeneration of encroached areas and defining boundary of Eastern Mau to allow initiatives and interventions that help with sustainable management of the watershed area.