zebra standing in a woodland
“kenya 103” by Mister_Jack is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Today marks the SIXTH YEAR ANNIVERSARY of definearth! Thank you so much for reading and participating in my posts about science in the world around us. In honor of the blog’s birthday, today I am posting a short review of a study on two Kenyan communities that came together to improve their local swamps.

Manguo Swamp in the highland wetlands of central Kenya is a popular stop for tourists and birdwatchers. A 2010 study by scientists from the National Museums of Kenya and the University of Nairobi confirmed that the two most popular activities in the wetland were recreation and livestock grazing. The water was also used for irrigation and washing cars and hides. The resources of the nearby Ondiri Swamp, located in Kikuyu Kenya, served similar purposes. The water supplied schools, a hospital, and some communities in the area. In this post, I will summarize the major findings from the study.

Small wetlands such as Manguo and Ondiri are often considered government property, but people and industries are free to use the resources provided by the wetland without government intrusion. Most private land owners surrounding these Kenyan swamps own less than 2 hectares of land. When added together, private holdings accounted for 70% of the land around the swamps back in 2010.

handicraft buildings
“kenya 124” by Mister_Jack is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Scientists sought to gather data on wetland ownership, values, uses and threats, and conservation and management practices. Challenges to wetland conservation were attributed to private land ownership, corruption and illegal land excision within the municipal council, removal of tree seedlings for profit, and no funds to support conservation.

Three themes that the local people were asked to deliberate on were:

  1. Opportunities and challenges of developing income-generating activities
  2. Who should be responsible for conservation and management of the swamp
  3. Institutional and community participation in wetland management

When the community members were asked to discuss the three themes in a conversation led by relevant government officials, they agreed that land ownership was the main barrier to conservation efforts at the swamp. Members also agreed that business that benefits from ecotourism would be the most tenable, environmentally-friendly alternative for income related to the swamp. The Manguo Land Owners Association was renamed to Manguo Eco-tourism and Conservation Group going forward.

To ensure fair use, local authority would discourage certain activities such as car washing, waste dumping, and wetland agriculture in the swamps with support from the local community. Officials would also put a stop to bird hunting and egg collecting. Grazing would be allowed at a fee to limit overgrazing. Profits would go toward a fence and guard for the critical area. Finally, the study encourages the Kenyan Government to support environmental conservation by rewarding environmentally conscious activities for land owners, and administer penalties for those who degrade the land.

Image of cattle grazing from Macharia, Thenya, & Ndiritu, Biodiversity, 2010.

I reached out to one of the study authors on ResearchGate for any updates on the swamp situation but haven’t heard back yet. I will add any updates whenever they come! I hope that you are staying safe in these trying times, and as always, feel free to share your thoughts in the space below.

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