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NGO to develop a County Land Use Plan for Kakamega

17 July 2013, 14:45 Christine Sayo

Kakamega - Kakamega County is one of the richest counties in Kenya. The county is endowed with lots of natural resources not found in other parts of the country. These resources include good agricultural soils, permanent rivers, wetlands, mountains, hills and forests which when well utilized can be a source of pride to the region.

Smaller uneconomical units due to increased population

However despite all these resources, the region faces a myriad of challenges in land use that may threaten the region’s being in the future. The land in the region has been subdivided into smaller uneconomical units due to increased population. This has in turn reduced the number of acreage under food production and as a result, the region experiences high food insecurity forcing residents to import most of its food from the neighboring country of Uganda.

Most households in the region survive only on one meal a day because food is not available.

The vegetation cover has been destroyed and the land left bare. This has increased soil erosion and water pollution.

The tree cover in the region stands at 1.7% as opposed to the country’s 4% which is against the requisite 10% as per world standards.

The rivers which serve the region have undergone a lot of siltation and sedimentation and as a result are very shallow, exposed and turbid, the volume has greatly reduced and others are almost drying up. Most of the water life has been destroyed and more so the fish. It’s a miracle to find fish in the local streams where our parents and elder brothers did fishing. The rivers have been polluted by chemicals applied on the farms inappropriately; these chemicals have all been carried down to Lake Victoria by the major rivers traversing the region which are River Nzoia and Yala. This has caused eutrophication in the Lake Victoria leading to the hyacinth menace in the Lake. Fish production in the lake has reduced tremendously reduced as a result and this has affected the economy of the people living around the Lake Victoria.

Encroachment in the catchment areas  and vegetation destruction upstream has caused a lot of floods downstream in the Budalang`i and surrounding regions leading to lose of life and homes. There is exhibited widespread encroachment on the riparian areas in the most parts of the region.

In summary lack of a proper land use plan has resulted to the various symptom which include low rural incomes, lack of employment opportunity, inadequate subsistence production, shortage of timber and fuel, shortage of grazing land, low, unreliable crop yields, encroachment on forests and wildlife reserve, conflict among farming, livestock and non agricultural uses and visible land degradation, e.g. eroded cropland, silted bottom-lands and floods in the region.

Other social problems related to land use are population pressure on land resources, unequal distribution of land, capital and opportunities and restrictions of land tenure and land ownership in the region.

County Land Use Plan

To help alleviate the above conditions, Nabwabini Environmental Health Care Intervention Project (NEHCIP), a non- governmental organization operating in Western Kenya is running a project aimed at improving the land management systems in Kakamega County. The Organisation aims to address these challenges by developing a County Land Use Plan for Kakamega.

According to NEHCIP Program Director Dennis Okoyo, the regional plans provided for in the National Land Policy are inadequate as the budgets for physical planning are not sufficient enough.

“NEHCIP’s  land use plan will outline what activities  are permitted in which location and will help to serve as a clear simple guide to responding to current development interest,” he says.

“The land use plan is also expected to improve management of natural resources based activities including agriculture, fuel, timber harvest, fisheries, water extraction and other natural products harvest and use in the region,” adds Okoyo.

The land use plan will be developed through a participatory manner and the draft submitted to the respective County Assembly’s for debate, approval and adoption. The plans will encapsulate by laws and recommendation on the proper participatory management of the natural resources in a sustainable manner in these regions.

So far NEHCIP has conducted awareness meetings at Koyonzo in Matungu Sub-County, Matunda in Lugari and Khwisero bringing together representatives of the farmers and other land users likely to be affected by the plan to obtain their views.

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Nabwabini Environmental Health Care Intervention Project (NEHCIP) is a registered non- governmental organization operating in Western Kenya. The organization is working towards improving the living standards of rural less privileged people through programmes such as environmental conservation, Agriculture, Advocacy, Human rights and governance, health, water and sanitation. Currently the organisation is running a project  that is aimed at improving the land management systems in Kakamega County.

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