Challenges of conservation of dryland shallow waters, Ewaso Narok swamp, Laikipia District, Kenya
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Ewaso Narok Swamp, formed along the Eng'are Narok river, is located in the semi-arid part of the Laikipia District, Kenya. The area, of bushy grassland, is characterised by low rainfall (less than 750 mm annually) and episodic rivers. Before the 1970s, the dominant land use was large scale ranching and nomadic pastoralism. Since 1970, this has slowly been transformed into high density small-scale farming. There has been a strong trend towards settlement along riverine and wetland areas due to their suitability for farming and easy availability of water for cultivation. Ewaso Narok swamp has a rich species diversity of over 170 bird species, resident and migrant, over 100 plant species and it also provides an important dryland refuge for both domestic and wild animals. The swamp also provides socio-economic products such as plant matter for building. The result of its land use transformation has been ecosystem alteration, habitat modification and destruction both for wetland and rangeland species. This change has also been accompanied by escalating human-wildlife conflict. However, although this process is self-destructive, the lack of economic returns from wildlife to some extent justify the land use transformation since the communities settling here have to satisfy the basic requirements of food and shelter. This poses the challenge of the developing appropriate ways to conserve the dryland wetlands whilst attaining maximum returns for the local community.
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