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NASC 1001 - Environmental Science
The physical and cultural survival of indigenous people is dependent upon the protection of their
land and its resources. However, the relationship between the indigenous people and their
environment has been eroded because of dispossession or forced removal from traditional lands and
sacred sites (Berger, 1998). According to (Boone, 1998) land rights, land use and resource
management remain critical issues for indigenous peoples around the world. Development projects
like Mining, forestry activities and agricultural programmes continue to displace indigenous people.
Modern approaches on land use and management as evidenced in government policy interventions
have challenged or contradicted the traditional perception to land resulting in many obstacles in
policy and project implementation. Land privatization while positive in its intentions, affects the
concept of shared access to land, interferes with people’s livelihoods and introduces competition on
already scarce resource (Ellis et al.,1988). The Constitution provides for freedom of movement but
this can result in ‘invasion and encroachment by intruders’ to land which is attached to another
community resulting in conflicts (Akama, 1995). Introduction of projects and implementation of
policies without local peoples’ consultation may result in conflicts with their perceptions of land,
tenure structures and land use, leading to low productivity, destruction of biodiversity, sacred and
historical sites. On the other hand, disaster management is usually hindered by strong attachment to
land especially in relocation proposals while land planning and development are subject to
traditional perceptions that each person must own a piece of land (Mwangi, 2007a).
Land is at the Centre of the social, cultural and economic life of the various communities that
constitute the Kenyan society. It provides a means of livelihood for the communities that have
settled in the various zones over the years as commercial / subsistence farmers, ranchers, traditional
herders and fishing communities, hunters and gatherers, miners, loggers and wildlife
conservationists (Berg, 2004). The Njonjo Commission Report cited one of the fundamental
aspects regarding the African and the sociology of land in human relations, which is worth quoting:
“For indigenous Kenyans, land has an important spiritual value, for it is not merely a factor of
production, it is first and foremost the medium which defines and binds together social and spiritual
relations within and across generations. Land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few
are living and countless members are still unborn” (Njonjo Commission Report, 2002).
The nature of land use changes in an area is a function of the factors of land production within the
prevailing social and political constraints. Land use is influenced by the physical nature of the land
and its location, by availability of capital and its distribution, and by availability of cost of labour
(Mather, 1986). The social and political conditions under which a given land use is operates also
influences it. A change in any of these factors or in the climate will definitely affect the entire use
system. The changing land use may result in a change in the intensity with which the land is used
or it may give rise to a change in the way the land is utilized. (Ibrahim, 1987) further reinforced
this by indicating that land use changes with far-reaching effects on the environment can be divided
into two categories;
 Intensification of traditional land use owing to the population increase as well as population
concentration in the settlements with pieces of land for titling, water and other services
 Changes in the methods of land use and the rural economy in general.
In Kenya, (Held and Visser, 1984) indicated that the pattern of rural land and land use has changed
in response to population growth, socio-economic development and improved farming practices and
technology. The changes which have taken place reflect the changes that have occurred in the
values and priorities with regard to the use of land. Other factors which have triggered changes in
land use include better transport, growing demand of land products and the national & community
policies (Mather, 1986; Brigg & Wyatt, 1987)
Knowledge on land use and cover is essential to an understanding and evaluation of man’s impact
on the natural environment (Ogunda, 1991). Agriculture is the biggest land use in terms of area,
and at global level it is the most significant land use in terms of environmental impact (Mather,
1986). Each kind of land use has some impacts on the environment. Environmental effects vary
with types and intensity of uses and management practices. In general effects increase with
intensity of use but low intensities of use do not necessarily mean that side effects are negligible.
Management is the key factor that complicates the relationships between intensity of land use and
magnitude of environmental effect. A time lag may intervene between a change in type or use or
management and its environmental effect. Similar types of effects however can result from
different types of land use. For example the enrichment of a lake by phosphate can be caused by
sewerage effect from run off, from crop land or even from soil erosions resulting from trampling on
recreational sites.
Changes in technology and in management practices may be a just as significant as changes in land
use. The use of land also usually brings a bout loss of species diversity. While some species are
promoted and indeed become the focus of land use and management, many are removed, either
deliberate as weeds or pests species or intentionally through the alteration of habitats. In this
manner some species may become fewer in number and others may become extinct. Man in using
land, seems to increase the rate of species extinction in the same way is he is increasing the rate of
other natural processes such as erosion and eutrophication of lakes. The environmental effects of
land use often tend to be cumulative and naturally reinforcing. The significance of environmental
impact due to land use vary widely since some affect individual land users while others like water
pollution have effects on others who may many miles away. There are other impacts that may
threaten the continued use of land sustainably with other natural resources like wildlife conservation
which promote the extinction of these natural resources (Mather, 1986). In view of this, it is
therefore necessary to be armed with information and knowledge that can be used in managing land
use for sustainable development of wildlife resources.
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