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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Integrating Resource Access, Livelihoods and Human Health around Lake Victoria, Kenya

  • Author(s): Fiorella, Kathryn Joan
  • Advisor(s): Brashares, Justin S.
  • et al.

While ecosystem and human health have been closely linked, the mechanisms through which natural and social systems interact to support human health are rarely understood. Yet the rapid transformation of Earth’s natural systems makes appreciating the drivers and ramifications of environmental change for human health particularly critical. To illuminate these links, I analyze the effects of changing resource access on household livelihoods, food security, health and nutrition. Specifically, I use the case of Lake Victoria, Kenya, to examine ways individuals and households respond to and affect fish availability. I employ both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including a longitudinal household survey, ecological monitoring of fish catch, and qualitative in-depth interviews. My analyses examine a bi-directional relationship between fish availability and the health of people who depend on fish resources. First, I analyze how participation in fishing livelihoods affects fish consumption and food security. Next, I examine the bounds of resource availability in time and space in affecting household fish consumption. Further, I assess the impact of illness in fishers on fishing methods, and thereby fishery sustainability. Finally, I analyze how fish declines affect women’s access to fish, and, in particular, the power dynamics of transactional fish-for-sex relationships and HIV risk. Through these analyses, I aim to illuminate both the extensive effects of environmental change and mechanisms that tie the health of people and their environment.

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