Published on: January, 2022
International Grassland Congress
Local communities have been coping with environmental dynamics since time immemorial, and they often possess considerable knowledge about environmental change, as well as mechanisms of coping with the consequences of such changes. Local knowledge on the changes in vegetation composition and abundance is therefore fundamental for the development of management strategies aimed at sustainable use and conservation of natural vegetation resources. Household interviews (n=150), Key informant interviews (n=30) and Focus group discussions (n=4) were used in this study to extract information on the communities’ perceptions on the status of vegetation in Rusinga Island of Homa Bay County of Kenya, and the suggested management strategies for the environment, particularly the vegetation resources for posterity. Rusinga Island is a biodiversity hotspot and an ancient historic area with numerous archeological sites that have given the World fossils dating back millions of years but the area has been experiencing downward trend in its ecosystems. Majority (86%) of the respondents reported having observed changes in vegetation composition and abundance in the study area. The changes were attributed to deforestation, high human population, overgrazing, inadequate rainfall, and soil erosion. Most (68%) of the respondents perceived the changes had occurred mainly in the forests/hills, in the entire Island (15.3%) and in the homesteads (2.7 %). To reverse the changes, the local community proposed tree planting, protection of existing trees, use of alternative sources of fuel, increased awareness creation on environmental conservation and controlled livestock grazing as the best strategies to reduce vegetation degradation. Besides sensitization and building capacity of the communities to engage in sustainable management of vegetation resources, land restoration interventions in the study area should target the plants species at risk through re-introduction and re-afforestation practices.