Assessment of the effects of land use methods contributing to watershed degradation in Makueni County

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South Eastern Kenya University
Land use changes, rapid population growth, poverty, climate change variability and lack of livelihoods diversification aggravate watershed degradation through inappropriate land use methods resulting to water scarcity, land and water pollution, and governance issues. Soil erosion and siltation has led to land denudation, habitat loss and farm lands losing their soil fertility and compromising food security. The main objective of the study was to find out how land use methods influenced the biophysical, socio-economic and institutional conditions to accelerate watershed degradation and their effects on livelihoods. The study examined the livelihood strategies and options of the people as well as the socio-economic conditions contributing to watershed degradation, investigated the land use methods practiced and how they affect the biophysical conditions influencing watershed degradation in Makueni County and determined the institutional conditions influencing watershed degradation. In order to achieve this ultimate objective, the study used a descriptive survey research approach to obtain data on socio-economic characteristics of the study sites as well as historical trends of land use. Systematic sampling along a vertical transect line was used to identify respondents. Structured and semi- structured questionnaires were used to collect data from the community and key informants. The data collected was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and Microsoft Excel 2010.The study established that Low food production as reported by the farmers (78%) and reduced income and livelihood by (75%), were consequences of watershed degradation in the study area. Landlessness at 39% (S.E=0.311 z= 1.311 sig.0.190), illegal encroachment at 18% (S.E=0.555 z= -0.604 sig.0.546), and laxity in law enforcement at 27% (S.E=0.481 z=0.227 sig. 0.821) were other factors mentioned by the farmers as contributing to watershed degradation. These conditions predisposed farmers to adopt inappropriate farming methods and unsustainable livelihood strategies which compromised the watershed’s environmental integrity. The study sought to make recommendation for efficient watershed management.