, Volume 692, Issue 1, pp 5–17 | Cite as

Managing the natural capital of papyrus within riparian zones of Lake Victoria, Kenya

  • E. H. J. Morrison
  • C. Upton
  • K. Odhiambo-K’oyooh
  • D. M. HarperEmail author


The harvesting of natural products such as papyrus (Cyperus papyrus L.), whether for subsistence value or for the production of commodities intended for sale at local markets, contributes to the well-being of riparian peoples around Lake Victoria, Kenya. Serious losses of papyrus wetlands across East Africa have been reported, most of which are attributed to increasing anthropogenic stressors. Recent studies have called for restoration of these wetlands, emphasizing the need for sustainable harvesting strategies to be put in place, although few have provided suggestions as to how this might happen in practical terms and, crucially, with the consent and active participation of local communities as key stakeholders. Here we explore the socioeconomic characteristics of livelihoods based on papyrus, presenting data generated from surveys, interviews and group discussions collected at multiple sites within the Nyando river basin, Kenya. Conceptualizing papyrus stands as living stocks of natural capital, we then outline our proposal for maintaining the provisioning services of this species, without compromising the critical ecohydrological functions of these swamps as land–water buffer zones. Finally we suggest how this approach might be adapted for wider dissemination around Lake Victoria and beyond, motivated by what we believe to be the first reported case of successful papyrus restoration by a local community.


Cyperus papyrus Sustainable harvesting Rural livelihoods Socioeconomic services Wetland restoration 



Sincere thanks to all who gave their time to talk to us and participate in the study, to our research assistants Jane, Evans, Joel and Vincent, to Dr Kitaka, Dr Raburu, Professor Okeyo-Owuor, Jerry Diang’a and the staff and students of VIRED for sharing their knowledge and allowing us to publish information emanating from their hard work at Okana. The authors thank the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for Research Permission to D. Harper and the Natural Environment Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council for financial support to E. Morrison. This paper is dedicated to our fond memories of Dr Lindsay Oaks, DVM, a wonderful man and an outstanding scientist, sorely missed in Kenya and beyond.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. H. J. Morrison
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. Upton
    • 2
  • K. Odhiambo-K’oyooh
    • 3
  • D. M. Harper
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  3. 3.Consulting Engineers & Project ManagersNairobiKenya

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