The Ecology of Livelihoods


The main question that the ECOLIVE programme addressed was: how can African countries utilize and protect wetlands more effectively so that poor rural populations have access to these resources for food and income? To answer this question, new knowledge is needed on how hydrological and ecological processes, modified by changes in climate and upstream water use, govern wetland functions; how people's livelihoods drive their decisions about wetland use; and how institutions and policies affect decision making about wetlands. This knowledge should be integrated to obtain an understanding of the overall impact on wetlands, and decision makers should be involved in the research to link this understanding to policy and practice.

To achieve this, a local stakeholder forum of communities, entrepreneurs, researchers, government agencies and policy makers was formed. Three PhD students supervised jointly by the local universities, IHE Delft and the University of Amsterdam did the research. A post-doctoral scientist coordinated the research and the integration of results in an analytical framework. MSc-research from local and international students was attached to the project. Communication of research results was developed right from the start of the project  through stakeholder forums, joint workshops, use of media, website, and policy briefs.

The research was done in the Nyando River wetland along Lake Victoria in Kenya. Capacity building was a vital secondary objective of the project. Local and national stakeholders were involved in designing the programme and were committed to participating in data collection, institutional analysis and model development. The project contributed to capacity building of East African institutions to conduct and apply interdisciplinary research, and to poverty reduction among local communities who depend on wetlands for their livelihoods.

PhD-project 1

PhD-project 1: Eco-hydrological functioning of the wetland in a changing catchment and climate context (Patrick Khisa)

This project studied the biophysical processes of the wetland in the context of its catchment and investigate the role of climate and climate changes. PhD-1 studied the hydrological processes related to wetland functioning, the inter-dependent dynamics of lake water levels, groundwater, river inflows, and developed a process-based hydrological model to analyse the occurrence of floods, droughts and water quality parameters under past, present and future conditions. Various modelling tools, including SWAT were used. The PhD-student for this project was Patrick Khisa (see Persons).

PhD-project 2

PhD-project 2: Wetland biodiversity, nutrient buffering and resilience in relation to levels and types of exploitation for livelihoods (Priscah Rongoei)

This project investigated the impact of exploitation by wetland communities on wetland functioning. A number of sampling sites were selected in the Nyando River wetland, with different types of livelihoods activities. Indicators for biodiversity and nutrient buffering were defined and field data on soil, resource flows, vegetation and fauna biomass, productivity and biodiversity captured the full seasonal variability in climate, ecological and agronomical cycles. Analysis included diversity indices, nutrient balances, statistical analysis, dynamic simulation models and trophic models. Field site selection was coordinated with the other researchers after an initial state-of-the system analysis. The PhD-student for this project was Mrs. Priscah Rongoei.

PhD-project 3

PhD-project 3: Livelihoods of wetland communities and institutional and governance aspects of wetland conservation and utilization (Serena Adhiambo Adede Nasongo)

This project investigated how the livelihoods of riparian communities depend on the wetlands and how this dependency is influenced by the institutional and governance setting. Data were collected using qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (survey) methods. Data on functional values, service use and livelihood outcomes of resource users and new insights in the hierarchy, activity and poverty-impact of environmental-relevant institutions was linked to actual processes of institutional development in relation to poverty alleviation and environment using a qualitative (ATLAS Ti) analysis. This tested political-economy based hypotheses on the relationships between institutions, informal networks that exist within them, and the dominance of higher level socio-political scales of government and donor agencies. The PhD-researcher in this project was Mrs. Serena Adhiambo Adede Nasongo.

Post-doc project

Post-doc project: a trans-disciplinary framework for integration of hydro-ecological, socio-economic and governance processes in support of sustainable wetland management (Julius Kipkemboi)

The Post-doc aimed at constructing a trans-disciplinary framework for integration of the hydro-ecological, socio-economic and governance processes to generate scenarios for decision support. Framework development involved stakeholders to incorporate their knowledge and experience; foster dialogue and common understanding and collaboration; ensure ownership of the ensuing framework by the stakeholders. The Post-doc, Dr. Julius Kipkemboi, used DPSIR analysis and Bayesian Network models.