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2.2Socio-Economic Context

2.2.1Kenyan National Context

  1. As a nation, Kenya is ethnically and culturally diverse. This diversity was created by a series of migrations of various peoples from other parts of the continent, mainly Hamites, Nilotes and Bantu. During the 20th century this has been augmented by the arrival of Asians and Europeans. The country’s population has increased rapidly from 8.2 million in the early 1960s to 15.2 million people by 1979 and 22 million in 1987.

  2. Currently the population is estimated at 30 million people, most of it concentrated in the high rainfall areas in the Highlands and along the Coast. The average annual population growth rate has fallen from a high of 4% (one of the highest rates in the world) to around 2.7%, and varies within the country. Rates of increase are especially high in the central Kenya highlands and in western Kenya. Human population densities are also high, with an average of c.50 persons/km2, but this again varies with region. In the north and north-east of the country just 20% of the total population occupies 80% of the land area.

  3. Only 18% of the land in Kenya is arable, with another 9% marginal; the rest is rangeland and semi-desert.36 This limited arable area supports all the major cash crops, 80% of the population and most of the indigenous forest estate.37 The rapid growth in the country’s population has subjected this productive land to tremendous pressure. The population increase now includes marginal areas, accelerating land degradation. The increasing demand for agricultural land and woodfuel has led to high rates of deforestation (an estimated 1% loss of forest area per year). Savannah and montane grasslands, occupying some 80,000 km2, are being converted to wheat fields and pasture, while many wetlands (especially swamps and marshes) are at risk from drainage for agriculture.

  4. According to the United States State Department 2002 Country Reports, from 1963 to 1973 Kenya’s GDP grew by 6.6.%38 but by 1997 dropped to 2.3%, then to 1.8% in 1999 and became negative (0.4 percent) in 2000.39 According to the second United Nations Common Country Assessment (CCA) for Kenya issued in 2002, the number of poor has increased from 52% in 1997 to 56 % in 2002. The Human Development Index has been falling since 1990 and Kenya now ranks at 146 out of 173 countries.40

  5. Average life expectancy has dropped by four years between 1989 and 1999 and now stands at 54 years for men and 57 years for women. There has been a dramatic increase of the population living under the poverty line in urban areas which increased by 90% between 1994 and 1997. In rural areas absolute poverty stands at 90% of the rural population.

  6. The majority of these poor derive their income from subsistence farming, but with only 18% of the land area regarded as high to medium potential arable land this area is already being used at its maximum potential. Most significantly the MDG progress report for Kenya notes that if current trends continue, poverty will increase to 65.9 % in 2015.

2.2.2Cherangani Hills Context

  1. The Cherangani Hills is an expansive area traversing several districts. It is situated in parts of Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot districts. Assessment of the human settlements in the districts surrounding the Cherangani hills shows that increased densification of settlements and intensification of land use activities driven by rapid population growth and increasing incidences of poverty continue to exert pressure on the Cherangani hills forests.

  2. An analysis of Trans Nzoia district exemplifies the settlements situation in the areas surrounding Charangani hills. The district population growth rate is 3.8%, considerably above the national average of 2.9%. The population of Trans Nzoia has rapidly grown during the last four decades having risen from 124,361 in 1969 to 575,662 in 1999. Its 2008 population was estimated at 1,561,451 people.

  3. Despite the rich agricultural potential, absolute poverty stands at 54%. Agriculture and livestock keeping are the most important socio-economic activities in the areas surrounding Cherangani hills. Maize and milk are major products.

  4. Forest patches on the Hills are scattered and surrounded by private farms and some are more than 10km apart. Soil conservation knowledge and knowledge on participatory forest management is inadequate, illustrated by the fact that communities are growing inappropriate tree species along the river banks and in wetlands and are not practicing terracing along steep slopes leading to soil erosion. However, some private farmers are still preserving indigenous tree species on their farms. Traditionally grazing in the forest used to be managed by the various clans, however this system is no longer effective and the there has been overgrazing in the forest glades.

2.2.3Kakamega Forest Context

  1. Kakamega forest is situated in the larger Kakamega District. Kakamega district measures 1394.80km2. According to the National Population Census of 1999, the population density in the district is 433/km2 having risen from 220/km2 in 1969, which is one of the highest in the country. The district has over 125,901 households with a mean size of 4.8. As at 1999, the population in the district was 603,432 and by 2008 the population was estimated to be 711,823 people. The population growth rate in the district stands at 2.12%, which is below the national average of 2.9% per annum.

  2. The district registers a relatively high incidence of poverty with absolute poverty of about 57%. Settlements in the district are dominated by smallholder settlements on very small landholdings measuring on average 0.7ha per households. There are a number of urban centres within the district, the largest of which is the Kakamega municipality.

  3. The district lies in a high potential area for agriculture at an altitude of about 1800m above sea level. Small scale agriculture and livestock keeping dominate the landscape. Different types of food crops are grown, the most dominant one being maize. Traditional breeds of cattle, sheep and goats are kept; the area has high potential for stall fed dairy cattle production.

2.2.4North and South Nandi Context

  1. Nandi North and Nandi South Districts fall within an agriculturally rich region. Agriculture and livestock keeping are the main socio-economic activities within the districts. The larger Nandi District has registered rapid population growth during the last four decades. The population rose from 209,068 in 1969 to 578,751 in 1999. The population is estimated at 751,351 (2008). Population growth according to the 1999 population census is 2.9% per annum.

  2. The number of households in the two districts is over 112,713 with a mean household size in the two districts of 5.1. Despite the high agricultural potential, both districts suffer from serious poverty levels with absolute poverty estimated at 64%. The settlements in the two districts are characterised by three main forms of settlements: smallholder rural, plantation estate settlement and urban settlements. The two districts are important producers of tea and sugarcane gown on on small and large scale plantations.

  3. Despite the poor performance of the agricultural sector, tea and sugarcane farming remain important sources of income and employment. Other important socio-economic activities are coffee, pyrethrum, maize and dairy farming. Cattle, goats and sheep are also kept. Beekeeping and tree growing are emerging as important sources of income. The districts have registered dwindling land sizes as the population increases. The average land size for smallholder farms is two hectares compared with six hectares for large-scale farms. The increasing pressure on land has serious implications on protected area management.

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