Impacts of Rice Production on Nyando Wetlands Ecosystem in Lake Victoria Basin, Kenya
Adunde, Phoebe Akoth
Owuor, Okeyo J. B
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Wetlands are important resources that provide the community with many inter-related environmental functions and socio-economic benefits, which support a variety of livelihood strategies. In Kenya, wetlands are often utilized for rice production due to their favorable hydrological conditions and nutrient-rich soils. The unique climatic and geographical characteristics of the Nyando wetland in the Lake Victoria basin, coupled with the availability of water resources, make it suitable for rice cultivation. As rice cultivation intensifies in the region to meet rising food demand and economic opportunities in the country, Nyando Wetland has been extensively exploited, disrupting the ecological balance of the wetland ecosystem and negatively impacting biodiversity and livelihood of riparian communities. Therefore, this study evaluated the impacts of rice production on Nyando Wetlands Ecosystem in Lake Victoria Basin, Kenya. The study was based on the assumptions of the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium principle. This study adopted mixed research design which integrated both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. This study target population were 80,509 households using wetland resources and rice farmers in South West Kano Irrigation Schemes which neighbours Nyando wetlands Kabonyo Ward in Nyando sub-county, Kisumu County, Kenya. The sample size of 213 was derived using Krejcie & Morgan (1970) formula. Data was collected using structured questionnaires, interview with key informants, Focus Group Discussion, observation and photography. Cronbach's alpha was used to determine reliability of the research instruments and this study alpha value of 0.84 was regarded as being indicative of good reliability. The quantitative data was subjected to descriptive statistics and presented in the form of tables, pie-charts and graphs. Pearson correlation analysis was performed in SPSS version 20 to understand the relationship between rice production and the impact on ecosystem. Qualitative data from the interview guide and household questionnaire was analyzed through content analysis. Nyando wetland has experienced a significant reduction in size (91%) as farmers encroach into the wetlands to cultivate rice crops. Peaerson correlation between rice production and biodiversity, negative relationships were observed between the increase in rice crop production and the reduction of fish abundance (r = - 0.481, p = 0.001), decrease in wetland size (r = -0.984, p = 0.000), and water quality (r = -0.323, p = 0.001). However, a positive relationship was observed between rice production and the increase in bird populations (r = 0.223, p = 0.003), while a weak positive relationship was found between rice production and the increase in floods (r = 0.018, p = 0.002). The study recommends that there is need for relevant actors such as NEMA, MOA and County Government of Kisumu to empower local communities through sensitization, awareness creation and trainings on importance of conserving wetlands and ensure implementation of sustainable intensification of rice production to achieve food security with minimal disturbance of the wetlands.