Utilization and conservation of papyrus plants for sustainable livelihoods in Kusa swamp, Lake Victoria, Kenya
Auma, Janet Atieno
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Kusa swamp has been adversely affected by degradation due to increase in human and livestock population coupled with poor farming methods, overgrazing and harvesting of papyrus which endangers the livelihood of the community. This study hypothesizes that there is no significant relationship between quantities of papyrus harvested per day and change in the area covered by papyrus; papyrus bundles used per day to make mats and those used to make baskets and ropes; and opinion the community hold on conservation of the swamp and, the number of community members involved in awareness creation, planned harvesting 'of papyrus and institutional arrangements. The main objective was to assess the utilization and conservation of papyrus in Kusa Swamp. To achieve this, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was used where Google Land Cover Facility (GLCF) was used to download aerial images of Kusa swamp between the years 1985 and 2008; and a household survey comprising 96 households of respondents in the study area was carried out. Interviews were also administered to selected key informants. The research instruments. included questionnaires, Key Informant Interviews (KII), direct observation, Focus Group Discussion (FGD). Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. To test the hypotheses, correlation analysis was used. Remote Sensing (RS) and GIS software (Integrated Land and Water Information System (1LWIS)) was used to analyze the RS images to show the change in area covered by papyrus. The area covered by papyrus in 1985, 1988, 1995, 2000 and 2008 was 66.7 km (41%), 68.9 km2 (43%), 51.7 krn2 (32%), 41.6 km2 (26%) and 37.7 krn2 (23%) respectively. Papyrus utilization is dominated by females (53.1%) and it is high among those with low or no educational attainment (80.2%). Papyrus utilization has resulted in papyrus habitat decline where the overall loss in area covered by papyrus between 1985 and 2008 was 43%, but a larger area was lost between 1988 and 2000 (37%). This trend shows that 86% of the area might be lost by 2031. It has also resulted in reduction in papyrus availability (67%), migration (75%) and death (22.9%) of animals; and change in fish diversity (36.5%). Majority (70%) of the respondents use papyrus for mat making while 30% use it for basket weaving, thatching houses, chair making, partitioning houses and ceiling. Baskets and ropes are widely used in the area. About 79% are in favour of swamp conservation while only 4.2% are currently involved in conservation activities. Initially, the community used institutional arrangements (21%), planned harvesting (31%) and awareness creation (48%) as conservation measures but they were discouraged due to lack of internal and external support. The riparian communities proposed new measures to be implemented for sustainability of the ecosystem. Kusa community continues to depend on the swamp for their livelihoods which include papyrus harvesting, farming, grazing and water. To meet these benefits against increasing population and poverty, there is need for a management strategy that accounts for both peoples' livelihoods balanced with conservation initiatives. This calls for consideration of alternative sustainable livelihood and development options by stakeholders which include recreation, research and educational sites and irrigated terrestrial agriculture where agro-forestry is practiced to help compensate for loss of papyrus. Sensitization through multi-media approach on importance of natural ecosystems will help enhance conservation efforts.