An Analysis of the Rural Livelihoods and the Sustainable Use of Osodo Wetland in the Sondu - Miriu River Basin in Kenya

Wetlands are areas permanently or periodically waterlogged and are important ecosystems for man through their socio-cultural and economic values. This research analyzes the rural livelihoods in relation to sustainable utilization of the Osodo wetland in Rachuonyo District. The objectives of this research were to establish the resources of the wetland and their utilization, to establish the cultural and ecological importance the wetland, and to identify factors influencing use of the wetland resources and their sustainability. A total of 60 respondents were sampled from study area using stratified random sampling. Structured questionnaires, focus group discussions and interview schedules were used to gather data. The main resources identified are roofing and wall building materials, land, water, soil, vegetation and animals. Land use activities include; crop farming and livestock farming including grazing. Soil is also used for pottery. Water use activities include; fishing, domestic chores such as drinking, cooking, bathing, washing and watering animals. The main vegetation types within the wetland include reeds, grass, trees and macrophysics. Firewood is collected from the wetland in the form of dried papyrus, medicinal herbs are extracted from the wetland and residents still gather wild fruit and vegetables. Hunting of wild animals is slowly being phased out. The cultural and ecological importance of Osodo wetland resources is mainly baptism and prayers. Recreational swimming and fishing also take place within the wetland. The main factor affecting the use of the wetland resources is the fact that informal resource regulations on utilization of wetland resources are changing over time. This has mainly led to the over utilization of resources. Most activities within the wetland were seen to be sustainable especially because there were some informal rules and regulations that guide the wetland residents. For example, offenders who trespass other peoples land/property are fined. This acts as a deterrent to trespass. This study recommends that environmental planners including the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and the Ministry of Local Governments work hand in hand with the county council to ensure that the Osodo wetland resources are utilized sustainability to avoid their over utilization and eventual depletion. The study also recommends that Agricultural Extension services be provided to the Osodo wetland fanners so as to ensure that the land resources are not over utilised. It is recommended that environmental education (EE) should be emphasized at community level within the Osodo wetland. This should mainly be on resource management and conservation. If possible environmental education should be incorporated into the syllabus of primary and secondary school teaching for the benefit of Osodo wetland residents and the country at large. More environmental research should be done about the resources within the Osodo wetland so as to know how best the local Osodo wetland can manage the available resources without depleting them. This environmental research will also help the Osodo wetland discover more resources.