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Smallholder perceptions and communication gaps shape East African riparian ecosystems

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Nzau, Joslyn Muthio (main author), Rogers, Rebecca (author), Shauri, Halimu Suleiman (author), Rieckmann, Marco (author), Habel, Jan Christian (author)
Online journal article
Publication Date:
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois
Subject Term:
Africa, attitudes, communication barriers, conservation, environmental communication, farmers, mass media, survey research, government communication, Habitat degradation, spatial bias, Riparian forest
13 pages., Via online journal., Human livelihood needs and nature conservation often contradict. Yet, healthy ecosystems are crucial for human livelihood quality. The semi-arid regions of East Africa suffer under demographic pressure and soil depletion. Ecosystem degradation becomes particularly visible along rivers in semiarid regions of south-east Kenya, where former pristine riparian forests have been transformed into agricultural fields and settlements with negative effects on ecosystem services. In this study, we aim to understand how local smallholders perceive the challenges for the riparian ecosystems and what factors affect their engagement in environmental conservation. We surveyed about 200 farmers and performed expert interviews with representatives from governmental institutions from the field of land- and resource management along Nzeeu River in south-east Kenya. We assessed the level of education, land use practices, environmental knowledge, attitudes and the willingness to contribute to nature conservation. We tested for spatial bias to understand smallholders’ perceptions on environmental challenges. Our data show that land division due to inheritance is not perceived as a problem by the farmers. However, owners holding < 1 ha of land property are less willing to spare some of their land for conservation, as opposed to those holding land plots above this size. Despite a high level of general willingness to conserve ecosystems, our data underline that local people hardly actively engage in conservation action. Furthermore, our data indicate a communication gap between local smallholders and regional governmental officers as well as overconfidence in mass media through the radio which can contradict successful adoption of pro-environment behavior. Sustainable land management in our study area is not a matter of education, but depends from the size of land property. There is an urgent need to bridge this communication gap, as a prerequisite to improve sustainable land management.