Research and Rural Development

Karatu and the Rift Valley area are experiencing a period of rapid socio-economic and ecological transformation. In the past, these areas supported agricultural and pastoralist communities, as well as a diversity of wildlife. The present human population, however, can no longer be sustained solely on these practices. Economic changes and socio-cultural adaptation are therefore crucial for their survival and for the conservation of environmental resources.

MESO operates its research and rural development program with the belief that its two main components - environmental conservation and socio-economic development - can be achieved simultaneously. The first component seeks to promote attitudinal change among community members and their leaders by accentuating the importance of environmental resources and providing strategies for their sustainable utilization. The latter component focuses specifically on poverty alleviation by improving food security, promoting education and income generating activities, and expanding health and sanitation services. Projects initiated by the organization in the past include:

 
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Gathering a resource database of indigenous trees in the Karatu area. Gleaned from local knowledge, the database contains information regarding trees' uses, benefits and methods of propagation. Findings are available to community members and other interested parties in a resource library located in the village of Kambi ya Simba.

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Constructing a biophysical reserve on the Ngorongoro-Karatu boundary along the River Seay. The reserve is intended to protect important environmental resources in the area (including a major water source) and to serve as an appealing destination for ecotourism. The project proposal is available in our publications section.

Since 2002, ongoing research has been conducted in Kambi ya Simba village, Karatu District, to assess the impacts of soil erosion on agrarian livelihoods. This research has been conducted alongside extension services regarding soil conservation, agroforestry and sustainable land use. Our accomplishments and ongoing activities in the village include:

 
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Prioritizing areas most affected by soil erosion using satellite remote sensing and soil spectroscopy

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Providing an assessment of crop yields, vegetation density and soil nutrient contents throughout the village's regions and soil types

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Monitoring the use of soil conservation measures and their effectiveness

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Analyzing the interactions between natural and socio-economic factors and soil conservation, agroforestry and sustainable land use

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Assessing grazing pressure on village rangelands

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Developing an educational and agricultural resource center in the village

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Hosting seminars and lecture series to discuss research and recommendations with farmers

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Training 'pilot' farmers to provide extension services

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Distributing agricultural equipment and improved seed varieties to vulnerable families

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Constructing improved water sources (i.e., wells, pumps)

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Constructing a tree nursery of useful agroforestry species, distributing seedling to farmers (goal of 20,000 planted seedlings by 2005)

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Sponsoring afforestation and landscape rehabilitation activities

Generous assistance for this project has been provided by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), in Nairobi, and Wesleyan University, CT, USA. More information about the study area and the research itself can be found here.

MESO - The Multi-Environmental Society
mesotz@hotmail.com

(C) Copyright 2004


Farmers attending a lecture series


Conducting questionnaires with farmers


Horticulture project along the River Seay


Compiling a list of ideas during a seminar


Constructing a fence for a village nursery


Caring for seedlings in the nursery