Advertisement

Human Ecology

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 589–612 | Cite as

Efficacy of Integrating Herder Knowledge and Ecological Methods for Monitoring Rangeland Degradation in Northern Kenya

  • Hassan G. Roba
  • Gufu ObaEmail author
Article

Abstract

The world-wide debate on land degradation in arid lands, usually linked to local land use practices, does not reflect methodological advancements in terms of assessments and monitoring that integrate local communities’ knowledge with ecological methods. In this paper, we evaluated the efficacy of three different methods related to herder assessments and monitoring of land degradation; herder knowledge and ecological methods of assessing impacts of livestock grazing along gradients of land use from settlement and joint monitoring of selected marked transects to understand long-term vegetation changes in southwestern Marsabit northern Kenya. The performance of each method was carefully evaluated and interpreted in terms of the indicators used by herders and ecologists. Herder interpretations were then related to ecologists’ empirical analysis of land degradation. The Rendille nomads have a complex understanding of land degradation which combines environmental and livestock productivity indicators, compared to conventional scientific approaches that use plant-based indicators alone. According to the herders, the grazing preference of various livestock species (e.g., grazers versus browsers) influences perceptions of land degradation, suggesting degradation is a relative term. The herders distinguished short-term changes in vegetation cover from long-term changes associated with over-exploitation. They attributed current environmental degradation around pastoral camps, which shift land use between the alternating wet and dry seasons, to year-round grazing. We deduced from long-term observation that herders interpret vegetation changes in terms of rainfall variability, utilitarian values and intensification of land use. Long-term empirical data (23 years) from repeated sampling corroborated herder interpretations. Land degradation was mostly expressed in terms of declines in woody plant species, while spatial and temporal dynamics of herbaceous species reflected the effects of seasonality. The efficacy of the three methods were inferred using explanatory strengths of ecological theory; insightfulness of the methods for describing land degradation and the likelihood of using the methods for promoting local community participation in the implementation of the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (CCD) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Keywords

Ecological indicators Herder knowledge Land degradation Monitoring Northern Kenya Rendille 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was part of a PhD project completed by Hassan Guyo Roba on the integration of indigenous knowledge and ecological methods. The work was supervised by Professor Gufu Oba of the Department of International Environment and Development Studies, at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Noragric. The Norwegian Research Council funded the research work under project no: 161359/S30. Hassan acknowledges the assistance of Hussein Walaga, Peter Geykuku and Diba Guyo of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) in Marsabit for their assistance with the fieldwork. Lesuper Joseph is acknowledged for language translation and conducting interviews. The authors acknowledge with appreciation the constructive comments by two referees on the earlier version of the paper.

References

  1. Abel, N. O. J., and Blaikie, M. (1989). Land Degradation, Stocking Rates and Conservation Policies in the Communal Rangelands of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Land Degradation and Rehabilitation 1: 101–123. doi: 10.1002/ldr.3400010204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnalds, O., and Archer, S. (2000). Rangeland Desertification. Kluwer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  3. Bake, G. (1983). An Analysis of Climatological Data from the Marsabit District of Northern Kenya. IPAL, Northern Kenya Technical Report No. B-3.Google Scholar
  4. Behnke, R. H., and Scoones, I. (1993). Rethinking range ecology: Implications for rangeland management in Africa. In Behnke, R. H., Scoones, I., and Kerven, C. (eds.), Range Ecology at Disequilibrium, New Models of Natural Variability and Pastoral Adaptation in African Savannas. ODI, London, pp. 1–30.Google Scholar
  5. Berkes, F., Kislalioglu, M., Folke, C., and Gadgil, M. (1998). Exploring the Basic Ecological Unit: Ecosystem-like Concepts in Traditional Societies. Ecosystems 1: 409–415. doi: 10.1007/s100219900034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Binns, T. (1990). Is Desertification a Myth? Geography 75: 106–113.Google Scholar
  7. Biot, Y. (1993). How long can high stocking densities be sustained? In Behnke, R. H., Scoones, I., and Kervien, C. (eds.), Range Ecology at Disequilibrium. New Models of Natural Variability and Pastoral Adaptation in African Savannas. ODI, London, pp. 153–172.Google Scholar
  8. Bollig, M., and Schulte, A. (1999). Environmental Change and Pastoral Perceptions: Degradation and Indigenous Knowledge in Two African Pastoral Communities. Human Ecology 27: 493–514. doi: 10.1023/A:1018783725398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. CSU (1970). Wildland Ecology Handbook. CSU, Ft. Collins.Google Scholar
  10. Dahlberg, A. C. (2000). Interpretations of Environmental Changes and Diversity: A Critical Approach to Indications of Degradation—The Case of Kalamate, North West Botswana. Land Degradation and Development 11: 549–562. doi: 10.1002/1099-145X(200011/12)11:6<549::AID-LDR413>3.0.CO;2-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis, D. K. (2005). Indigenous Knowledge and the Desertification Debate: Problematising Expert Knowledge in North Africa. Geoforum 36: 509–524. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2004.08.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dollan, R. (1980). Migration Patterns in the Rendille, 1923–1978. Proceedings of a Scientific Seminar, Nairobi, 24–27 November 1980. IPAL Technical Report Number A-3.Google Scholar
  13. Ellis, J. E., and Swift, D. M. (1988). Stability of African Pastoral Ecosystems: Alternate Paradigms and Implications for Development. Journal of Range Management 41: 450–459. doi: 10.2307/3899515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fernendez-Gimenez, M. A. (2000). The Role of Mongolian Nomadic Pastoralists’ Ecological Knowledge in Rangeland Management. Ecological Application 10: 1318–1326. doi: 10.1890/1051-0761(2000)010[1318:TROMNP]2.0.CO;2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fraser, E. D. G., Dougill, A. J., Mabee, W., Reed, M. S., and McAlpine, P. (2006). Bottom-up and Top-down: Analysis of Participatory Processes for Sustainability Indicator Identification as a Pathway to Community Empowerment and Sustainable Environmental Management. Journal of Environmental Management 78: 114–127. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2005.04.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fratkin, E. (1986). Stability and Resilience in East African Pastoralism: The Rendille and the Arial of Northern Kenya. Human Ecology 10: 269–287. doi: 10.1007/BF00889031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fratkin, E. (1991). Surviving Drought and Development. Arial Pastoralists of Northern Kenya. Westview, Boulder.Google Scholar
  18. Fratkin, E. (1994). Pastoral Land Tenure in Kenya: Maasai, Samburu, Boran and Rendille Experiences, 1950–1990. Nomadic Peoples 34/35: 55–68.Google Scholar
  19. Fratkin, E., and Roth, E. A. (1990). Drought and Economic Differentiation among Arial Pastoralists of Kenya. Human Ecology 18: 385–402. doi: 10.1007/BF00889464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fynn, R. W. S., and O’Connor, T. G. (2000). Effect of Stocking Rate and Rainfall on Rangeland Dynamics and Cattle Performance in a Semi-arid Savanna, South Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology 37: 491–507. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2664.2000.00513.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Geist, H. (2005). The Causes and Progression of Desertification. Ashgate Studies in Environmental Policy and Practice. Ashgate, Aldershot.Google Scholar
  22. Gemedo, D., Isselstein, J., and Maass, B. L. (2006). Indigenous Ecological Knowledge of Borana Pastoralists in Southern Ethiopia and Current Challenges. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 13: 113–130.Google Scholar
  23. Hambly, H. (1996). Introduction. In Hambly, H., and Agura, T. O. (eds.), Grassroots Indicators for Desertification. Experience and Perspectives from Eastern and Southern Africa. IDRC, Ottawa, pp. 1–7.Google Scholar
  24. Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science 162: 1243–1248. doi: 10.1126/science.162.3859.1243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Havstad, K. M., and Herrick, J. E. (2003). Long-term Ecological Monitoring. Arid Land Research and Managements 17: 389–400. doi: 10.1080/713936102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Illius, A. W., and O’Connor, T. G. (1999). On the Relevance of Nonequilibrium Concepts to Arid and Semiarid Grazing Systems. Ecological Applications 9: 798–813. doi: 10.1890/1051-0761(1999)009[0798:OTRONC]2.0.CO;2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Illius, A. W., and O’Connor, T. G. (2000). Resource Heterogeneity and Ungulate Population Dynamics. Oikos 89: 283–294. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0706.2000.890209.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kraaij, T., and Milton, S. J. (2006). Vegetation Changes (1995–2004) in Semi-arid Karoo Shrubland, South Africa: Effects of Rainfall, Wild Herbivores and Changes in Land Use. Journal of Arid Environments 64: 174–192. doi: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2005.04.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Krugman, H. (1996). Towards improved indicators to measure desertification and monitor the implementation of the Desertification Convention. In Hambly, H., and Agura, T. O. (eds.), Grassroots Indicators for Desertification. Experiences and Perspectives from Eastern and Southern Africa. IDRC, Ottawa, pp. 20–37.Google Scholar
  30. Lamprey, H. F. (1979). Structure and Functioning of the Semi-arid Grazing Land Ecosystem of the Serengeti Region (Tanzania). Tropical Grazing Land Ecosystems. A State of Knowledge Report. UNESCO, Paris, pp. 526–601.Google Scholar
  31. Lamprey, H. (1983). Pastoralism yesterday and today: The overgrazing problem. In Bourlier, F. (ed.), Tropical Savannas. Elsevier, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  32. Lamprey, H., and Yussuf, H. (1981). Pastoral and desert encroachment in northern Kenya. Ambio 10: 131–134.Google Scholar
  33. Lepš, J., and Šmilauer, P. (1999). Multivariate analysis of ecological data. Faculty of Biological Sciences. University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice.Google Scholar
  34. Lusigi, W. J. (1981). Combatting Desertification and Rehabilitating Degraded Production Systems in Northern Kenya. IPAL Technical Report A-4. UNESCO, Nairobi.Google Scholar
  35. Lusigi, W. J., Nkurunziza, E. R., Awere-Gyekye, K., and Masheti, S. (1986). Range Resource Assessment and Management Strategies for the South-Western Marsabit, Northern Kenya. IPAL Technical Report D-5. UNESCO, Nairobi.Google Scholar
  36. Mapinduzi, A. L., Oba, G., Weladji, R. B., and Colman, J. E. (2003). Use of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge of the Maasai Pastoralists for Assessing Rangeland Biodiversity in Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology 41: 329–336. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2028.2003.00479.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McPeak, J. G. (2005). Individual and Collective Rationality in Pastoral Production: Evidence from Northern Kenya. Human Ecology 33: 171–197. doi: 10.1007/s10745-005-2431-Y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Niamir-Fuller, M. (1998). The resilience of pastoral herding in Sahelian Africa. In Berkes, F., and Folke, C. (eds.), Linking Social and Ecological Systems. Management Practices and Social Mechanism for Building Resilience. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 250–283.Google Scholar
  39. Niamir-Fuller, M. (1999). Managing Mobility on African Rangelands: the Legitimization of Transhumance. IT, London.Google Scholar
  40. Oba, G. (1985a). Local Participation in Guiding Extension Programs: A Practical Proposal. Nomadic Peoples 18: 27–45.Google Scholar
  41. Oba, G. (1985b). Perception of Environment among Kenyan Pastoralists: Implications for Development. Nomadic Peoples 19: 33–57.Google Scholar
  42. Oba, G., and Kaitira, L. M. (2006). Herder Knowledge of Landscape Assessments in Arid Rangelands in Northern Tanzania. Journal of Arid Environments 66: 168–186. doi: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2005.10.020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Oba, G., and Kotile, D. G. (2001). Assessments of Landscape Level Degradation in Southern Ethiopia: Pastoralists Versus Ecologists. Land Degradation and Development 12: 461–475. doi: 10.1002/ldr.463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Oba, G., Stenseth, N. C., and Lusigi, W. (2000a). New Perspectives on Sustainable Grazing Management in Arid Zones of Sub-saharan Africa. BioScience 50: 35–51. doi: 10.1641/0006-3568(2000)050[0035:NPOSGM]2.3.CO;2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oba, G., Post, E., Syvertsen, P. O., and Stenseth, N. C. (2000b). Bush Cover and Range Condition Assessments in Relation to Landscape and Grazing in Southern Ethiopia. Landscape Ecology 15: 535–546. doi: 10.1023/A:1008106625096.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Oba, G., Weladji, R. B., Lusigi, W. J., and Stenseth, N. C. (2003). Scale-dependent Effects of Grazing on Rangeland Degradation in Northern Kenya: A Test Of Equilibrium and Non-equilibrium Hypotheses. Land Degradation and Development 14: 83–94. doi: 10.1002/ldr.524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Oba, G., Sjaastad, E., and Roba, H. G. (2008a). Framework for Participatory Assessments and Implementation of Global Environmental Conventions at the Local Level. Land Degradation and Development 19: 65–76. doi: 10.1002/ldr.811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Oba, G., Byakagaba, P., and Angassa, A. (2008b). Participatory Monitoring of Biodiversity in East African Grazing Lands. Land Degradation and Development 19: 636–648. doi: 10.1002/ldr.867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Oba, G., Weladji, R. B., Msangameno, D. J., Kaitira, L. M., and Stave, J. (2008c). Scaling Effects of Proximate Desertification Drivers on Soil Nutrients in Northeastern Tanzania. Journal of Arid Environments 72: 1820–1829. doi: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2008.04.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Okoti, M., Keya, G. A., Esilaba, A. O., and Cheruiyot, H. (2006). Indigenous Technical Knowledge for Resource Monitoring in Northern Kenya. Journal of Human Ecology 20: 3183–189.Google Scholar
  51. O’Leary, M. F. (1984). Ecological Villains or Economic Victims: the Case of the Rendille of Northern Kenya. Desertification Control Bulletin 11: 17–21.Google Scholar
  52. O’Leary, M. F. (1985). Economics of Pastoralism in Northern Kenya: The Rendille and Gabra. Integrated Projects in Arid Lands (IPAL) Technical Report F-3. UNESCO, Nairobi.Google Scholar
  53. Pratt, D. J., and Gwynne, M. D. (1977). Rangeland Management and Ecology in East Africa. Hodder and Stoughton, London.Google Scholar
  54. Reed, M. S., and Dougill, A. J. (2002). Participatory Selection Process for Indicators of Rangeland Condition in the Kalahari. The Geographical Journal 168: 224–234. doi: 10.1111/1475-4959.00050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Reed, M. S., Dougill, A. J., and Taylor, M. J. (2007). Integrating Local and Scientific Knowledge for Adaptation to Land Degradation: Kalahari Rangeland Management Options. Land Degradation and Development 18: 249–268. doi: 10.1002/ldr.777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Roba, H. G. (2008). Global goals, Local Actions: A Framework for Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Ecological Methods for Rangeland Assessment and Monitoring in Northern Kenya. PhD thesis, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, (UMB), Ås, Norway.Google Scholar
  57. Roba, H. G., and Oba, G. (2008). Integration of Herder Knowledge And Ecological Methods For Land Degradation Assessment Around Sedentary Settlements in a Sub-humidzone in Northern Kenya. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 15: 251–264. doi: 10.3843/SusDev.15.3:8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Roba, H. G., and Oba, G. (2009). Community Participatory Landscape Classification and Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring Grazing Land in Northern Kenya. Journal of Environmental Management 90: 673–682. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2007.12.017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Roba, A. W., and Witsenburg, K. (2004). Surviving Pastoral Decline. Pastoral Sedentarization, Natural Resource Management and Livelihood Diversification in the Marsabit District, northern Kenya. PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  60. SAS (2003). The SAS Systems for Windows, Release version 9.1. SAS, USA.Google Scholar
  61. Sobania, N. W. (1979). Background History of the Mt. Kulal Region of Kenya. IPAL Technical Report A-2. Unesco, Nairobi.Google Scholar
  62. Spellerberg, I. F. (2005). Monitoring Ecological Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  63. Sullivan, S., and Rohde, R. (2002). On Non-equilibrium in Arid and Semi Arid Grazing Systems. Journal of Biogeography 29: 1–26. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2699.2002.00799.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ter Braak, C. J. F., and Šmilauer, P. (1998). CANOCO Reference Manual and User’s Guide to Canoco for Windows. Microcomputer Power, Ithaca.Google Scholar
  65. Thomas, D. S. G., and Middleton, N. J. (1994). Desertification: Exploding the Myth. Wiley, Chichester.Google Scholar
  66. Thomas, D. S. G., and Twyman, C. (2004). Good or Bad Rangeland ? Hybrid Knowledge, Science and Local Understanding of Vegetation Dynamics in the Kalahari. Land Degradation and Development 15: 215–231. doi: 10.1002/ldr.610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. UNCCD (1994). United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. United Nations, Geneva.Google Scholar
  68. Ward, D., Ngairorue, B. T., Kathena, J., Samuels, R., and Ofran, Y. (1998). Land Degradation is not a Necessary Outcome of Communal Pastoralism in Arid Namibia. Journal of Arid Environments 40: 357–371. doi: 10.1006/jare.1998.0458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Walther, D., and Herlocker, D. J. (1980). A Preliminary Study of the Relationship Between Vegetation, Soils and Land Use in the South-western Marsabit District. IPAL Technical Report A-3. UNESCO, Nairobi.Google Scholar
  70. Warren, D. (1992). Indigenous knowledge, biodiversity conservation and development. Keynote address at the International Conference on Conservation of Biodiversity in Africa: Local initiatives and institutional roles, 30 August–3 September 1992, Nairobi, Kenya.Google Scholar
  71. Warren, A. (2002). Land Degradation is Contextual. Land Degradation and Development 13: 449–459. doi: 10.1002/ldr.532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NORAGRIC, Department of International Environment and Development StudiesNorwegian University of Life ScienceÅsNorway

Personalised recommendations