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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Linking Farmer, Forest and Watershed: Agricultural Systems and Natural Resources Management Along the Upper Njoro River, Kenya

  • Author(s): Krupnik, Timothy J.
  • Jenkins, Marion W.
  • et al.

This paper describes subsistence farmers’ agricultural and natural resource management techniques and perceptions in the upper catchment of the River Njoro, Kenya and explores their implications for further research and action by watershed managers and policy makers. In East Africa and elsewhere in developing countries, small-scale poor farming households often form a critical group in the link between upland natural resource conditions and watershed services. A small-scale pilot study of a sample of 15 hillside farmers located within 200 meters (m) of first order streams or springs in the upper catchment of the River Njoro (UCRN) was designed to explore in-depth farmers’ behavior, knowledge, and perceptions in the larger context of emerging watershed management issues. Blending qualitative social science approaches and quantitative biophysical and economic assessment, the research sought to answer the following questions: How do farmers in the UCRN view and manage soil and tree resources? What is the potential for the development of integrated agroforestry practices in the UCRN? What does this imply for conservation planners concerned with watershed and environmental services? The typical farming system and soil management practices in the UCRN are detailed, and farmer perceptions of soil fertility and farm productivity presented. Use and perception of local tree and forestry resources by farmers is also described in relation to watershed conservation issues. Combined, these results are used to inform an understanding of the “gaps” between local and scientific knowledge pertinent to watershed managers in the River Njoro, identify constraints to the sustainability of the farming system, and discuss opportunities for development of integrated agroforestry practices. Emerging hypotheses for further research linking farming systems with watershed management in the UCRN are presented, providing insights for environmental planners concerned with the promotion of improved farm and agroforestry systems in the highlands of East Africa.

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