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Wetlands play critical ecological and economic functions through ecosystem services they provide. Despite this importance, wetlands in many regions of the world and particularly East Africa are increasingly facing anthropogenic pressure compromising their sustainability. Agricultural production is one of the key activities driving wetland degradation. The impact of agriculture on the wetlands is not straightforward and can be better understood through studying specific activities within distinct agricultural land use management systems (ALUMS) and the level of risk they pose to wetlands. The purpose of this study is to assess the level of intensification across three agricultural land use management systems (ALUMS) in East African Wetlands and identify the drivers of farmers’ choices of the ALUMS. The study utilizes cross-sectional data collected from 1053 wetland dependent farm households in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Results indicate that there were higher rates of agricultural intensification in upland irrigated and wetland land use systems compared to the rain fed only system. The most prevalent choice of ALUMS was the one involving a combination of upland rain fed and wetland production depicting wetlands as a diversification and risk management strategy by farmers around them. The choice of the wetland dependent systems was significantly driven by commercialization, land scarcity and household socio-demographic factors. To guide sustainability in the use of wetlands, in the long run, we develop various postulates that can point to potential policy options that will guide wetland users towards this objective.
Key words: Agricultural intensification, agricultural land use management, East Africa, wetlands
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