The implication of human perception on the conservation of Sironga and Kianginda wetlands in Kenya
Masese, Jane Bosibori
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This study examined the implication of human perception on the conservation of wetlands using Sironga and Kianginda wetlands in Kenya. Both primary and secondary data were used. Questionnaires focusing on perceptions of local people on wetlands, farmer activities and institutional roles on wetlands were used to collect primary data, while secondary data was obtained from various documents in government Ministries whose activities affected wetland areas. These sources were supplemented with reviews of both published and unpublished literature. The study established that although wetlands provided ecological services and functions including habitat for different biota, 69% of the local people at Sironga and 79% at Kianginda perceived them mainly as frontiers for economic gains. This Scenario poses a threat to the existence of wetlands. The study further established that a part from economic, socio-cultural and ecological perceptions also each exert some pressure on wetlands. This study observed that, external actors mainly various Government Ministries had promoted unsustainable use of wetlands. Sironga was most hit because of early influence by lake Basin Development Authority, its topography and good infrastructure. Establishment of development projects and pressure on land culminated in the distortion of traditional land uses leading to degradation of wetlands. Although the projects were supplementary sources of livelihood, little consideration was given to associate environmental impacts. It was further established that recent (i.e. late 1970s) activities have led to the distortion of sustainable use of wetlands as economic perception has taken the land. Therefore the ecological importance of wetlands has little weight to individuals whose main interest is to draw direct benefit from the ecosystem. An average of 74percent of the respondents perceived wetlands as an economic resource and as a source of income generation particularly through brick making industry. This perception is partly as a result of lack of awareness of the impact of this industry. The perception is partly as a result of lack of awareness of the impact of this industry. This perception is partly as a result of lack of awareness of the impact of these practices on the environment. The economic activities have lead to wetlands loss and degradation. The people have little knowledge of the ecological functions of wetlands which can lead to wetlands conservation. The socio-cultural perception on the other hand has been overtaken by modernization and technology. In conclusion, wetlands in Nyamira district stand to be degraded and lost due to predominantly economic perception among the people. There is need therefore to sensitise farmers on the need to conserve them for non-economic gains.