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Prosperity in Rural Kenya

In this video, IGP Research Associate Constance Smith introduces our work in Kenya
One of the IGP sites of exemplification is Marakwet in northwestern Kenya which is a very remote rural area near the town of Eldoret and we have a very longstanding connection with Marakwet. Henrietta Moore did her PhD there around 35 years ago, and we’ve– she’s maintained a connection with there ever since. And most recently, the IGP has been focusing on issues to do with environment and agriculture and how issues such as deforestation, soil degradation, and agricultural change relate to larger processes of social, religious, and economic change in the area.
So it takes a very holistic look at a lot of rural development issues and works very closely in a very small community and particularly with a group of community researches who are trained in various different social science, archaeological, and environmental research methods. One of the emphasis is on the co-design of research projects with the citizen scientists, so that means that we try to ensure that the IGP’s research is not only interesting and important from an academic perspective, but that it also meets the needs of the local community.
So for example, one of the issues that has come strongly to the floor in the last few years is the relationship between the Kereo Valley, which is a very dry it’s a semi-arid area where agriculture is particularly difficult because it faces a lot of environmental challenges. And so the relationship between this area and the highland area, which historically was very heavily forested, much higher rainfall and a much more productive agricultural zone. And the relationship between these two areas is very interesting, because of all of the water from the Kerio Valley is coming from the highland area.
So if there are problems with deforestation or excessive use of fertilisers or other kinds pollutants, then all of those issues get literally washed down into the valley. And so that’s something that the community has spoken very strongly of recently, and so we’ve tried to make the focus of the work that we’re doing.

Professor Henrietta Moore has been studying the links between agro-environmental changes and wellbeing in rural communities in Kenya for 35 years. In the video above, Dr Constance Smith who leads our research in Kenya explains some of the obstacles to prosperity. Currently, livelihoods of 12 million people are at risk due to the deteriorating quality of soil. In the area, maize mono-cropping, promoted by local markets and local policies, has led to accelerated desertification, having a long-term impact on soil productivity. Maize is also particularly water-intensive. All these factors make communities more vulnerable to climate change.

Traditionally, the area grew sorghum and millet, which are more suited for inconsistent rainfall. The communities also have a history of sustainable farming, with practices like intercropping, and irrigation systems that are hundreds of years old. However, they have been under increasing pressure to focus more on cash crops in recent decades. These changes, done in the name of economic growth, ultimately made communities more vulnerable to soil degradation and climate change.

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