Lake Victoria experienced drastic water level changes from October 2005 raising concerns about impact to the livelihood of the communities around the lake. The study investigated impacts of the water level decline on land use changes, wetland resource utilization, household food production, income generation, fish catches, water supply, quality and quantity and biodiversity changes within the Nyando wetlands in Western Kenya. Data was collected between August and December 2006 through in-depth household interviews of 120 randomly selected wetland resource users; key informant interviews (KII), and focused group discussions (FGD). Qualitative description and SPSS computer package Version 11.6 was used for statistical data analysis. Results of the study indicate that receding water levels led to increased availability of land for farming through reclamation and conversion of exposed wetland areas; over-exploitation of macrophytes; increased food production and income generation; and increased conflicts in the use of wetland resources. Water recession also caused shortage of domestic water supply, decrease in fish catches and biodiversity. The study recommends establishment of buffer zones to protect papyrus, formulation of national policies on wetland conservation, creation of alternative sustainable development options, and development of site specific wetland management plan to regulate the utilization of wetland resources.
Key words: Lake Victoria, water recession, Nyando wetlands, community perceptions.
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