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Title Causes for degradation and options for recovery of land use systems in Kakamega, Western Kenya

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Author(s) Mussgnug, F.(1); Diwani, T.(1); Nickel, D.(2); Becker, M.(1)

Presenting author Mussgnug, F.

Institution(s) (1) Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation, Department of Plant Nutrition, University of Bonn, Germany; (2) Institute of African Studies, University of Leipzig, Germany

Keywords System collapse; maize; reorganization; Ruthenberg value; soil fertility

Abstract Increased agricultural productivity is a prerequisite to improve rural livelihood and to reduce the anthropogenic pressure on Kakamega Forest. In the past two decades, demographic growth and split inheritance of land resulted in increased land fragmentation, declining average farm size (1.6 to 0.9 ha), and increased land use intensification (R-value: 0.65 to 0.93). Historic production data revealed a three-phase pattern: 1970-1985: land use intensification lead to yield declines, which were compensated for by area expansion; 1985-1995: the conversion of maize land into sugar and tea plantations was compensated for by an increased use of external inputs; 1996-2005: the expansion of cultivation into the short rainy season partially compensates for the continued yield decline. Today most cropland is continuously used, soil fertility has reached critical threshold levels and the production systems approach their collapse stage. Recovering soil quality and reorganizing the systems may follow two trajectories: (1) increase resilience by diversification and the “on-farm cultivation” of biodiversity (improved fence lines); (2) reorganize the production system through technical change. Land-based options are restricted to the only remaining area resource outside of Kakamega Forest - the fence lines that surround all farms. Improved fence lines have been established on 24 farms and are being evaluated for their provision of various services. Capital-based technologies, such as mineral fertilizers, increased yields in 14 of 20 trials, but are restricted to the few market-oriented farms. Knowledge-based low-input technologies, such as seed priming appear most promising, but require a strengthening of agricultural extension. Such site- and system-specifically adapted technologies will effectively address livelihood demands and correct key production constraints.

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