Short-term dynamics in livelihood conditions and woody plant extraction as an environmental entitlement at Mt. Kasigau, Kenya
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Climate change projections for marginal lands in East Africa emphasize seasonal variability and unpredictability in rainfall, and a challenging setting for local agriculture. This study focuses on short term dynamics in seasonal precipitation patterns, what people are doing to produce or purchase sufficient food, and how the extraction of woody-plant resources contributes as a locally available environmental entitlement at Mt. Kasigau in southeastern Kenya. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, household surveys (n = 41) described the challenges of food production and diverse income strategies to achieve food sufficiency. Monthly journal accounts (n = 16) provided a temporal and spatial analysis of extractive activities. Most households report insufficient food production and transient engagement with diverse income strategies. Households vary, especially shown among the journal accounts, in how woody plant products contribute to their livelihoods. Mapping journal records of woody plant use identifies broad utilization areas mostly at elevations near and below the homes, and when overlaid for village participants by seasons identifies areas under greater pressure. Study results show application to an adaptive planning approach that emphasizes greater support for local coping strategies, recognizes expertise, and encourages collaborative knowledge creation for sustainable livelihoods.
KeywordsClimate change East Africa Livelihood diversity Plant resources
Field research at Mt. Kasigau was supported by the National Science Foundation [NSF GSS 1061407, 2011–2015]. We recognize affiliation with the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi, under approval by the Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology [NCST/RR1/12/1/ES-011/11], and received approval by the Institutional Review Board for Human Subject Research at Miami University (10-061). We especially thank the Kasigau Taita residents who worked as field experts, interview participants and hosts at the study location, and Florence Maingi, our Nairobi host and logistical coordinator. Comments and suggestions from two peer reviews also guided a revision of the final manuscript.
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