Patricia Owiyo, Bor, Erick Kiprono, Paul Sutter
Abstract: Wetlands are a main source of livelihoods for riparian and estuarine communities in Sub-Sahara Africa. For generations the riparian community of South Central Alego Location in Siaya County, Kenya depended on the Yala Swamp Wetland as their only source of household livelihoods. This natural resource base provided an arena for floodplain activities like livestock herding, farming, fishing, wood logging, hunting, papyrus harvesting and the cottage industry. However, in 2003 the local leaders in South Central Alego leased the Wetland to Dominion Group of Companies for the production of rice The social exchange process heralded a major social change for the residents of Yala Swamp in terms of lifestyle and resource base. They rejected the change. This study was motivated by media reports of agitation from the residents discontent arising from claims of takeover and transformation of the Wetland which, according to them, resulted in degradation of the environment and hence, loss of household livelihoods. The study was designed to explore the effect of Dominion Irrigation Project on environmental conservation in South Central Alego Location. A survey research method was used to collect data from 160 respondents (head of households). The study established that toxins from chemicals used in the rice farms are degrading the environment. Land, air and water is polluted and in effect human, plant and animal life is endangered. Also, as a result of wetland clearance and the loss of wetland products and produce, the traditional way of life is disrupted since traditional wetland trades no longer provide the strong financial backing like in previous years. Transformation of wetlands by both local and international companies should therefore be strictly guided by the existing institutional frameworks in order to ensure sustainable utilization of the resource by host communities.
Keywords: Dominion Irrigation Project, Effect, Sustainability, Environmental Conservation, Yala Swamp