Agricultural Land-use Dynamics in Kenya: Institutional, Biophysical, and Socio-Economic Drivers

OCTF seminar followed by drinks

Major changes in vegetation and land use over the last 30 years across 60,000 km2 of the agricultural areas of Kenya have been quantified by high resolution aerial photography. Cultivation has become both more extensive (~50% increase in area) and more intensive (from ~42% to ~63% median cover), but at the expense of the herbaceous rather than the woody component of the natural vegetation. Evidence for unsustainable intensification is lacking.

A range of biophysical and socio-economic drivers have been studied to observe and understand changes in cropping patterns. Major drivers of change are the market forces for higher quantity and better quality of agricultural produce, fuelled by population growth and urbanisation. The impact of land tenure on land use patterns comes out strongly from the data. The development trajectories on land under communal ownership lag some 40 years behind those under adjudicated (private) ownership, and demonstrate resource mining rather than sustainable resource management. Management of natural resources on Government land, primarily in forests and other reserves, remains an unmitigated disaster with significant encroachment of cultivation.

Signals in landuse change trajectories associated with the observed changes in climate over the study period are proving difficult to detect.

Mike Norton-Griffiths has been a resident of east Africa since 1969, first as the senior ecologist in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, then in Kenya as founder and CEO of an environmental consulting company. Later, he worked with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In 1992/93 he was a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard Institute for International Development after which he spent three years with Professor David Pearce’s group, CSERGE, at the Department of Economics, University College, London. He has also been a visiting research fellow with the Property and Environment Research Centre (PERC) in Bozeman, Montana, and with the International Policy Network (IPN) and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in London.
Back in Kenya he continues to consult on economic issues of conservation, land use and property rights and is currently a Visiting Research Fellow with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

His abiding interest over all these years has been in the long term dynamics of wildlife, rangeland and agricultural ecosystems. To this end he has been involved with long term monitoring and research programmes in Africa, the middle east and south America and, more recently, in Kazakhstan and Mongolia.