Impact of Damming River Tana on Floodplain Livelihoods of the Pokomo Community in Kenya

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Uruji, Rose Mkyangwena
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Kenyatta University
Globally, there are over 45,000 large dams with Africa having more than 1,300 dams constructed mainly to generate hydroelectric power, facilitate irrigation and supply water to municipalities. However, dams are associated with numerous adverse negative impacts on the environment and livelihoods of communities living downstream. The dams in the upper catchment area of River Tana in Kenya have resulted to drying up of the fragile floodplain ecosystem leading to several undesirable effects on the Pokomo community’s living downstream. Recession agriculture has become redundant with reduced fishing activities and harvesting of wildlife products. The main objective of the study was to establish the impact of damming River Tana on the floodplain livelihoods of the Pokomo community. The specific objectives were to: analyze the effects of flood on the floodplain livelihoods of the Pokomo community; explore the Pokomo community’s pattern of livelihood change before and after 1989 when the last of the Seven Forks dams was commissioned; examine the indigenous knowledge that was being used by the Pokomo community in the management of the floodplain natural resources; and establish how damming has affected the socio-economic status of the Pokomo community. The study area encompasses the delta with its fan-shaped floodplain of River Tana covering an area of about 1,300km2 which coincides with the Tana Delta RAMSAR conservation site. The methods used for this study included a household survey, focus group discussions and observation in the field survey design adopted. A household survey on 17 purposively selected villages with a sample size of 369 out of 4717 households was used. A questionnaire was used to collect data for the household survey while two checklists and a camera were used to collect data for both the focus group discussion and observation methods. The quantitative data collected from the household survey was analyzed and summarized using descriptive statistical methods to capture their significance relationship, central tendencies, degree of variability or dispersal while the qualitative data derived from the FGDs and structured observation was organised into themes and concepts from which generalizations were formulated. The data captured was presented in the form of tables, figures, notes and photographs. The Pearson’s correlation results for the first objective, flood water for crop farming was correlated with mainly three variables and the results are: fish abundance (p=0.012), wildlife products (p=0.003) and flood benefits (p=0.000). For the second objective, recession farming was correlated with four variables and the results are: wildlife products (p=0.045), fish availability (p=0.021), global warming (p=0.024) and crop yields (p=0.000). For the third objective, indigenous knowledge/forest was correlated with five variables and the results are: recession farming (p=0.000), firewood (p=0.032), animal/crop symbol (p=0.000), rotational fishing (p=0.047) and crop/season (p=0.018). For the fourth objective, low crop yields/crop species disappearance was correlated with five variables and the results are: crop yields/poverty (p=0.000), charcoal sell (p=0.000), recession farming (p=0.001), fish availability (p=0.000) and immorality/livelihood (p=0.000). The study has established that the Pokomo community perceives damming of River Tana upstream to have had adverse negative impacts on their livelihoods when the natural bi-annual flooding phenomenon was disrupted. The study recommends that the Ministry of Agriculture should revive the stalled village irrigation projects and engage the Pokomo community in agro-business activities that will generate income and guarantee food security to elevate the socio-economic status as well as their well being.
A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Award of the Degree of Master of Science (Environmental Education) in the School of Environmental Studies of Kenyatta University, September 2021
Impact, Damming River Tana, Floodplain Livelihoods, Pokomo Community, Kenya