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GIS in support of participatory land use planning in the Districts Keiyo & Marakwet, Kenya

Authors:, Julius Muchemi, Wangu Mwangi & Heinz Greijn

Corresponding Author: Julius G. Muchemi
(GIS-Consultant -ERMIS AFRICA,
PO 12327,Nakuru, Tel: 254-(0) 37-213323.

Co-authors: Wangu Mwangi & Heinz Greijn
(via SNV Kenya, P.O. Box 30776, Nairobi,
Tel: 254-(0) 2- 573656, Fax: 254-(0) 2- 573650

This paper describes how GIS has complemented processes of participatory land use planning in parts, prone to land degradation, of the Districts Keiyo and Marakwet. The result is land use maps that make it easier for people, organized in community rooted NGOs, to analyze the problem of depletion of soil, water, and forest resources, to plan for improved land use and to monitor the impact of their efforts towards improved management of the natural resources.

1. Introduction
Keiyo and Marakwet Districts are, administratively, situated in the Rift Valley Province in the northwestern part of Kenya. Geographically, it lies between latitude 0 0 51N to 1 0 19N and longitude 35 0 29E to 35 0 43W and occupies an area of 30sq km as illustrated by figure 1. The area can be divided into three main geographic zones, which run parallel to each other in a North-South direction as shown in figure 1. These are: the highland plateau, which rises gradually from an altitude of 2,700 to 3,350 meters above sea level, on the Cherangany Hills. The Elgeyo Escarpment is the intermediate zone that rapidly gives way to the Kerio Valley. The valley is situated at 1,000 m and is formed by a narrow and long strip of approximately 80 km and by maximum 10 km wide (OP/MPND, 1991 & 2000; Chebet and Dietz, 2000; Jeatzold and Schmdt, 1983). The variation in altitude causes considerable differences in climatic conditions: low rainfall and high temperatures in the Kerio Valley, high rainfall and moderate temperatures in the highlands. Rainfall distribution is highly influenced by topography. The highlands are characterized by high bimodal rainfall figures ranging between 1,200 mm to 1,700 mm while rainfall in the escarpment ranges between 1,000 mm to 1,400 mm per year. The Kerio Valley receives between 700 mm to 1,000 mm. However, the rainfall pattern in the valley is quite erratic and figures as low as 220 mm per year have been recorded (MALDM/GTZ, 1994).

The problem of natural resource degradation
The natural resources in the Eastern part of Keiyo and Marakwet, characterized by a steep escarpment, are being depleted at an alarming rate (IEA, 1998; Muchemi, 2002). Increasing population pressure and lack of employment opportunities in other sectors force farmers to cultivate on ever-steeper slopes. Forests are cleared to give way to farmland. The agricultural techniques are often destructive for the soil. Too many people in Keiyo and Marakwet have persisted shifting cultivation and free-range cattle holding. This has resulted in degradation of water sources, rampant soil erosion, and declining soil fertility. Rainwater that used to infiltrate and feed the springs and rivers now runs off the surface with ravaging speed. On its way, it carries fertile soil particles downwards to the Kerio River and ultimately to the bottom of Lake Turkana, lost forever for the people of Keiyo and Marakwet. The springs discharge lower volumes of water and the land becomes less productive forcing the people to clear more forests and to cultivate even steeper slopes. It is a vicious cycle that can turn the escarpment zone, which still looks very much like paradise, into a barren landscape, many rocks, and few people.

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