The environmental degradation of areas surrounding Lake Elementaita arise from the livelihood activities of the residents. Uncontrolled extraction of resources such as trees, grass and soda/salt contrasts with conservation. This is further compounded by the free access to the resources as a result of absentee landlords. This situation leads to lack of control and management of resources thus exacerbating degradation activities around the Lake and its riparian ecosystem. This study focused on the potential role of local communities in addressing ecological problems around Lake Elementaita ecosystem. The objective of the study was to identify human activities that cause environmental degradation around Lake Elementaita. The study was carried out around Lake Elementaita riparian zone and data collection was through the administration of a structured questionnaire among 183 households that were randomly selected. The data was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS).Descriptive statistics was used to determine the mean and standard deviations,’ inferential statistics was used to determine the relationship among variables and between dependent and independent variables A focus group discussion was conducted and it included a one day seminar organized for different stakeholders, local community leaders, large scale ranchers, conservation groups, community based organizations and Kenya Wildlife Services to share the research findings. The results from the research confirm that rapid population growth, overstocking, poor farming practices coupled with low understanding by the community of the interrelatedness between societal needs, economic drivers and the environment is leading to negative impacts like increased soil erosion, pollution, loss of habitats and biodiversity around Lake Elementaita riparian zone. This will lead to serious environmental degradation that inevitably exacerbates poverty among the community around Lake Elementaita. There is an urgent need for the government together with all stakeholders to come up with a comprehensive participatory management wetland policy .There will also be need to strengthen and coordinate agencies or government departments whose mandate includes wetlands management. There is also need to carry out education for sustainable development awareness and implement alternative livelihoods programmes such as beekeeping, ecotourism and organic farming in areas where we have wetlands.

Background Information
Societies all over the world are closely linked to the natural environment in which they are embedded. Human productive and social activities are shaped to a significant degree by the natural resource mix available: physical geography, weather patterns, amenability of natural conditions to transformation, and by a variety of other characteristics of the environment like soil type, prevailing temperatures, air quality and water quality and quantity. Environmental degradation, including depletion of renewable and non-renewable resources, air and water pollution and solid wastes, can be significant sources of stress upon societies. It may induce changes in settlement patterns and disrupt established social relations (UNRISD, 1994). Awareness and concern about environmental degradation have grown around the world over the last few decades. The concerns are shared by people of different nations, cultures, religion and social classes.

Environmental degradation is a process induced by human behavior and activities that damage the natural environment (Anon, 2007). High human population growth rates and economic development have led to degradation of wetlands, forests, habitats and air quality (Mennonite, 1999). High poverty levels amongst most developing countries have accelerated the rate of natural resources destruction, since the poor depend on natural resources directly for their livelihood (IUCN, 1999).

Degradation of wetlands affects both developing and developed countries. Since 1990, half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared. For example, in the United States, an estimated 54% of its original wetlands no longer exist (UNEP, 1990). There is evidence that a similar pattern of wetland degradation is taking place in developing countries. Degradation of wetlands has been aggravated by the insatiable demand to meet the needs of an ever- increasing human population. Environmental degradation within the wetland ecosystems shows a diminishing natural resource base whose effect and impact is measured by the ever- increasing levels of poverty of the catchment and riparian communities (UNEP, 1992). However, the decline of wetlands globally and an appreciation of their ecological and economic functions and values has recently generated concern from international and regional communities (Pyrovertsi and Dautopoulos, 1999).

In Kenya, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) estimates that wetland ecosystems (freshwater and saline) cover only 2-3% of the country’s surface area and are found mostly within the Great Rift Valley they include: Lake Nakuru, Lake Elementaita, Lake Baringo, Lake Naivasha, Lake Bogoria and Lake Magadi (NWP, 2001). Destructive and exploitative human activities are evident in the surrounding areas. These unsustainable human activities are visible in Mau escarpment, Bahati and Ndondori forests, which are the main catchment areas for Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria and Lake Elementaita respectively. Research on the relationships between farmers activities and wetlands is nearly nonexistent in Kenya and rather limited internationally (Wilson, G.A.1996).Similarly, quantitative analysis of the effects and impacts of agriculture on wetlands is limited (Beopoulous,N.1996) due to insufficient environmental monitoring.

Increased awareness about the adverse environmental and socio-economic consequences of the unwise exploitation of wetlands has resulted in worldwide calls for the sustainable management of fragile resources. However the unsustainable use of wetland resources has increasingly proven to be an extremely difficult and frustrating task in many developing countries. A substantial amount of literature that has appeared on this issue tends to carry the undertone that poverty is one of the major factors that make it difficult to achieve the sustainable use of wetlands. Some writers note that modern approaches to natural resource conservation are simply conflicting with the survival strategies of the poor in developing world that are dependent on wetland resources.(Mironga,J.M.2003).There has been a growth of interest in wetlands and accompanying change of attitude ( William,M.1991),In some countries the rates of wetland degradation is slowing down while at international level, the protection of wetlands is clearly reflected in the Ramsar convention ( Hollis et al,1994).This convention plays an important role in facilitating the protection of wetlands of international significance and Lake Elementaita is one of them.

Increased uses of chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides in agricultural activities in the catchment area are impacting negatively on the wetland ecosystems. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) from independent researches carried out at different time spans on lesser flamingoes in Lakes Elementaita and Nakuru established that the Lakes were threatened by sedimentation, livestock wastes and toxic wastes (KWS ,2002 WWF 2006).Human activities like agriculture have both primary and secondary environmental effects. Primary effects arise where agricultural activities take place, for example soil erosion. Secondary effects are those effects on the environment away from agricultural sites, for example the use of pesticides or fertilizers in the watersheds. These are washed off the land through erosion and end up in rivers, streams, lakes and oceans causing ecosystems to be highly eutrophicated thus destroying food chains and aquatic life.

Reports by various authors’ document that environmental degradation can be worsened in situations where ownership of natural resources is undefined. For example, Bromley, (1989) states that ownership of natural resources such as freehold or free access leads to unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and hence degradation. More often, free access is a result of ineffective resource rights regime which claim rights over a resource but lack the means to fulfill the responsibilities involved. The vacuum in control and management leads to uncontrolled exploitation, which is highly threatening to sustainability (Berkes, 1989). This situation in Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes that is home to flamingos is posing a serious threat to this rare birds survival since they frequent these lakes in large numbers either to breed or feed. The lakes are also important stopovers for other migratory birds like Spoon Billed Sand Piper, Great White Pelican and the Eurasian Marsh Harrier. (WWF – Lake Bogoria, 2002).

In industrialized countries, the consequences of loss and degradation of wetlands have often been mitigated with expensive artificial constructions, such as major flood protection schemes or water purification plants which is not the case in developing countries because mitigation measures may take too long to be implemented mostly due to financial and technical constraints (Kotze et al, 1995). It is from this background that this study was conducted to investigate the impact of human activities around Lake Elementaita ecosystem and look for feasible solutions for sustainable management of its riparian area as well as to seek possible livelihood alternatives for the adjacent community. The findings could provide long term reprieve for the other Rift Valley lakes facing similar challenges.

Statement of the Problem
The area surrounding Lake Elementaita is partly private land, with a large part surrounded by small parcels of land that have been settled but some owners are not resident thus exposing their land to free access. The area surrounding Lake Elementaita is rich in biodiversity and is a habitat for numerous species of waterbirds some of which like the lesser flamingoes are threatened due to habitats being compromised. Anthropogenic activities such as catchment degradation, deforestation, charcoal burning, settlement, siltation, overgrazing, introduction of alien species, pollution and water abstraction are threatening the Lakes ecosystem, values, functions, and ecological integrity. The increasing human population in the area, the current land use practices in this water deficit area only compounds the fragile ecosystem. There is therefore need to establish the effect of diverse human activities being carried out on the ecosystem of areas surrounding Lake Elementaita so that informed decisions can be made so as to mitigate against its degradation.

Broad Objective
To determine the effect of human activities on the ecosystem of areas surrounding Lake Elementaita in Naivasha Sub-County.

Specific Objectives
1. To identify major human activities around the Lake Elementaita riparian zone

2. To identify the resources that are exploited by communities within lower and upper viewpoint of Lake Elementaita

3. To identify and characterize the sources of pollution around Lake Elementaita riparian zone

4. To determine the local communities’ perception on the conservation issues within their ecosystem

Research Questions
1. What are the major human activities practiced in the Lake Elementaita riparian zone?

2. Which resources are exploited by communities within the lower and upper viewpoints of Lake Elementaita?

3. What are the major sources of pollution affecting the riparian zone of Lake Elementaita?

4. What is the local community perception towards conservation issues?

Over the years there has been diminishing vegetation cover, through deforestation and overgrazing in areas surrounding Lake Elementaita. While most deforestation is done by cutting of trees for fuel wood and charcoal production, overgrazing is done by migratory livestock (KWS, 2000). There is uncontrolled charcoal burning, soda/salt mining around the shores of the lake and overgrazing in the surrounding rangelands leading to diminishing vegetation and soil erosion.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the area lies in a semi-arid area where rainfall is low and also unreliable. This has led to situations where the lake has almost dried up completely, a manifestation of catchment destruction and water abstraction from rivers leading to reduced flow of water reaching Lake Elementaita. The depth of the lake fluctuates between 0.7-1.0metres (KWS, 2010).This only confirms the need to reduce activities that may lead to the death of this ecosystem. As a result of frequent dry spells and poor crop yields from their land the surrounding communities eke their living through exploitation of the natural resources within their ecosystem. These activities enhance environmental degradation. A review of secondary information about Lake Elementaita shows that little information exists about the potential of Lake Elementaita and no research has been done to ascertain the effects of human activities on the ecosystem of areas surrounding the Lake.

Lake Elementaita was designated as the 5th Ramsar site in Kenya in 2005 when it was enlisted as a wetland of international importance due to its role as a refuge for threatened, vulnerable and endangered bird species. The environs surrounding the Lake are rich in biodiversity and were designated as one of the Important Bird Areas in Kenya in 1999. Lake Elementaita and its surrounding riparian lands was also proclaimed as a National Wildlife Sanctuary in 2010.In 2011,Lake Elementaita,Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria were all inscribed by UNESCO as part of Kenya Lakes System in the Great Rift Valley Heritage Site. The international status bestowed on this ecosystem makes it imperative to protect and conserve it for posterity. The research was purposed at integrating the local people’s needs, their valued resource base within the ecosystem and perceptions about the future of the riparian area. The results from the study will provide .essential information to policy makers, implementing agencies, researchers, communities and other interested stakeholders to understand the need for community participation in identification, analysis, mitigation of environmental degradation around Lake Elementaita ecosystem.The results from the research will be useful in finding long term integrated approach to the conservation of natural resources around Lake Elementaita and other parts of the country facing similar challenges. From the aforementioned, areas surrounding Lake Elementaita formed an ideal study site to do research on effects of human activities.

Scope and Limitations
The research was carried out around the riparian zone of Lake Elementaita but confined to not more than 3km from the lake shore areas under settlement :to the North east, North West and South East. The main limitation to the research was the inability to establish the effect of the pastoralists grazing in the area and the effect of other activities being carried out beyond the 3km from the Lake shore.

The main assumptions were that the weather conditions prevailing during the research would not change drastically, the population of the area will remain fairly constant and their would be no sub division of land or new settlements in the area

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Item Type: Kenyan Material  |  Attribute: 68 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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