Landscape Management and Governance, Garba Tula, Isiolo, Kenya
Communities organize themselves in unique ways into social/functional units based on their cultural aspirations, threats and resources that they depend on. In many cases, these resources and the ecosystems to which they pertain do not correspond either to individual communities or to administrative boundaries. Landscape approaches are being promoted as an alternative. At the level of landscapes, however, the interaction of different people’s aspirations complicate natural resources management (NRM). Success of NRM strategies depends on how well the complexity is addressed. Linkages which assist people and organizations to share information and resources across levels and scales can help provide opportunities to broaden their knowledge and understanding of new threats, of what works and what does not, and of the range of options available to enable them to adapt accordingly.
We investigated a case in northeastern Kenya where a landscape approach is being applied to rangeland management.
In Garba Tula as elsewhere in Kenya, post-independence provincial administration guided by decisions made at central government with total disregard of traditional governance and resource management systems greatly undermined the traditional system. As a result, over the years natural resources were misused and degraded. This has been manifested in the inability of livelihoods to adapt to weather variations and drought. Recently the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED),
together with the local NGO Resource Advocacy Program (RAP) and communities in Garba Tula, initiated a process of reinvigorating the traditional management institutions and practices and integrating them into modern conservation strategies for the landscape.
Using focus group discussions, key informant interviews and a review of secondary data, we reviewed the way governance has been structured in this landscape approach, the decision-making processes, and the challenges facing the interventions so far. While the capacity building, rangeland management planning and other elements of the work that has been done to strengthen landscape level management demonstrate a potential for improved resource management and increased resilience of the livelihoods, it requires political buy-in from the various levels of administration. Although the Garba Tula landscape is an appropriate level at which to focus efforts aimed at promoting rangeland management, authority over the management of natural resources lies in various organizations and institutions, most of them operating at higher levels. The landscape level interventions have been carried out without devolution of authority to the institutions and processes which correspond to the geographical boundaries of the Garba Tula landscape.
Appropriate linkages to governance actors and institutions at higher levels which could
sustain and legitimize the processes at landscape level have not been established. Successful governance of the natural resources at the Garba Tula landscape needs to use the existing and potential opportunities for cross-scale dialogue and deliberation. Balancing power and influence among the stakeholders would allow for more effective dialogue among different interest groups and help to avoid situations where interventions may treat a landscape as an isolated island.
Another issue that must be considered is how biophysical characteristics and the kinds of production systems adapted to particular characteristics affect the ways in which NRM can and should be carried out. Drylands in developing countries represent a particular context that is unique, and present different requirements for optimal strategies to promote effective NRM than do other kinds of environments. One such difference relates to scale. Dryland farming and livelihood systems tend to be more extensive than farming systems in more humid climates. This is particularly true for mobile pastoralists. Rangeland management in pastoralist settings, therefore, may constitute a setting where landscape approaches are particularly appropriate. Drylands in developing countries present different and unique context that requires different optimal strategies for the promotion of sustainable NRM. Some models of community based approaches that would be effective in a sedentary village, such as when a village is managing its own forest, may not be applicable to mobile pastoralists.
Instead, the relevant scale may be more at a landscape level. It may also be that cross-scale dimensions of management require more attention in dryland settings. Moreover, what constitutes a functional landscape, and what constitutes an effective landscape approach will be different in drylands than in other kinds of climates. In this case study, we explored how landscape management and governance can function in dryland pastoralist settings, how participation can be structured, and the kinds of challenges that are faced.
One key aspect of governance in such situations is how pastoralists’ knowledge is, or is not, incorporated into decision-making. Pastoral communities’ participation in decision-making for environmental monitoring is regarded as one of the pillars of sound rangeland management (Oba 2012). Meaningful participation is needed not only in ongoing management but also in the design of the management institutions to ensure that relevant contextual knowledge, values and perspectives are incorporated in the design of resource governance systems.
This case study investigated the structure and functioning of management and governance in relation to this initiative.
Landscape management and governance, Garba Tula, Isiolo, Kenya. The two aims of the study were to characterize the organization of management and governance for the Garba Tula landscape and to explore successes and challenges of the system in place in implementing landscape level rangeland management.
This included establishing the main governance issues that affect the successful incorporation of the traditional resources management strategies in the contemporary management of the Garba Tula landscape. Particularly, we set out to establish:
• What are the issues and challenges?
• Is planning top–down, bottom–up, or both?
• How are planning and governance for natural resources structured?
• What role does the traditional institution, Jarsa Dheeda play in rangeland management planning in Garba Tula?
• What have been the successes and challenges in legitimizing community-based management of rangelands at county level through the Isiolo Customary Institution Bill?
The study area was the Garba Tula traditional rangeland territory (dheeda), which effectively corresponds to Garba
Tula subcounty in Isiolo county, Kenya. The smaller administrative units, the council wards, included in the study area were Kinna, Garba Tula, Kula Mawe, Serucho, Gafarsa and Benane. We selected focus groups from the members of the already established community resilience enhancement groups called Ward Adaptation Planning Committees (WAPCs) and Village Climate Adaptation Committees. The committees were constituted of community leaders who were either members of the customary dheeda council or represented the smallest social units in the community, from which dheeda council representative came. In total we conducted 18 discussions with focus groups in all 4 wards in Garba Tula. In addition, a total of 24 key informant interviews were conducted. Nineteen key informants at the ward level were interviewed. The key informants were leaders of the WAPCs at the ward level, people who had participated in leadership of any community development initiatives, members of the dheeda council, and leaders of community-based organizations. By being leaders or members of a social group, these individuals understood the customary and environmental issues within the landscape. The other five key informants included three members of county assembly (MCAs), the district commissioner and one district officer. Audio recordings were made of the interviews and focus groups and then transcribed.
Analysis aimed at characterizing the structures of governance and management at the landscape level was based on the key dimensions identified in a framework that has been developed by ILRI. These include:
• Definition of the landscape—What criteria and considerations were used to define the landscape? Was it
predefined based on biophysical criteria? Was the definition of the landscape negotiated amongst stakeholders? Or
does it remain fuzzy and not precisely defined?
• Authority and governance powers of the landscape-level institution process—What degree of authority is accorded
to the landscape-level management institution/process? What governance powers does it have?
• Governance by whom?—Which type of actors have prominent role in the landscape level institution or process?
• Multilevel planning approach—How does resource planning at the landscape level relate to planning at levels above
• Involvement of women and minorities—Identifying the role these social groups play in decision-making processes
and in actual management of the resources.
Further analysis aimed at identifying emerging themes on the successes and challenges for management and
governance needs to be undertaken.
Landscape management and governance, Garba Tula, Isiolo, Kenya.
Garba Tula Customary institutions, resource management and livelihoods. The Borana community, a subtribe of the Oromo, with a much smaller number of ethnic Somalis occupied the Garba Tula landscape. The term Garba Tula in Borana means ‘deep wells’. This landscape was a dry season refuge for Borana coming from Ethiopia long before some permanently settled in the area. The land is communally owned and managed as per the Kenya Trust Lands Act, 1963. The act provides guidelines on managing the resources by county councils on behalf of the community members.
Garba Tula is part of a much larger rangeland ecosystem that stretches from the traditional territory of the Meru
community in the south and the Samburu and Gabra communities in the north. The Garba Tula landscape is endowed with various natural resources which characterize it and also dictate the nature of livelihoods. The water resources include major rivers and wells. Garba Tula being of a place of many deep wells is a dry season-grazing area for many communities. The region is dry, consisting of a few water sources, mainly rivers, wells, springs and pans. The landscape is mosaicked with pastures of grass and browse vegetation, acacia patches and trees. Pastoralism is a main livelihood strategy.
The organizational structure of Borana society is generally described in terms of a hierarchy, which includes the
household, extended families, encampments or villages (ollaa), and neighbourhoods containing encampments (madda).
At a larger scale there are rangelands called dheeda (Homan 2005). The smallest unit is the hearth (ibidda) with one
male household head, his wife or wives and children. This is followed by warra—the fundamental component of
production—which comprises households with extended family including up to four other relatives who live and eat
with the herd owner’s family. Cross-cutting this territorially-based hierarchy are the mana (lineage) and gosa which broadly nests clans within submoieties and moieties. Functional aspects of this pastoral system include procedures for decision-making and allocation of responsibilities and resources (Swift and Abdi 1991).
The production system here thrives in an erratic environment often characterized by uncertainty and variability of the resource base. Rainfall and the subsequent pasture growth are not predictable over space and time. The community has constantly adapted to these changes by using strategies such as herd mobility and coordinated grazing patterns.
Their elaborate water and pasture management system include tools for checking livestock numbers and ensuring
optimum resource use. A key part of this system was a council of elders at the dheeda level (Swift and Abdi 1991).
Based on traditional ecological knowledge, the landscape has been classified to dry season and wet season grazing
areas and water points. Traditional place names describe the physical features, soils and vegetation throughout the
landscape while others describe historical events in Borana history. The dheeda council gave guidelines on the use
of water and pastures. However, pasture management was also effected through water management. The physical
location, legal status and technical condition of a water source determine the method or condition for the pastoralists’ access to and use of water.
The erosion of management institutions
Both the colonial and post-independence central governments which imposed the provincial administration on the
community, effectively interrupting the flexible nature of pastoralist management in this landscape have weakened this system. Forceful sedentarization of the community members started when Kenya became independent. As mobility became more constricted, the ability to cope with the highly variable climate weakened.
With the breakdown of the traditional system, there was unregulated and haphazard use of pastures. Over the
years, there has frequently been an influx of livestock from surrounding Somali and Samburu pastoralist communities especially during very severe drought. Mutual respect for each other’s management institutions among these communities was lacking. This has led to conflict over the resources and sometimes tribal clashes which often result in loss of lives. Planned grazing and any form of pasture management became essentially impossible. Over the years, the rangelands have faced significant degradation due to poor management practices and as a result a loss of livelihood and coping capacity for most pastoralists.
Another factor has been that the areas around Meru National Park, starting from Kachulu and extending out to
Bisanad conservancy have been used for crop production. The farmers here have cleared much of the natural forest
for farmland and also extract the water from rivers for irrigation. Most of the rivers are now seasonal or dried up due
to uncontrolled upstream abstraction and extraction. This has also affected wells in Garba Tula. The infrastructure
around the wells and pans broke down a few years ago due to poor management and neglect of traditional
Charcoal making and illegal logging have also been experienced in this landscape. There are isolated incidences of tree poachers coming in with power saws to cut down the hard wood in the area for timber. There were also incidences of wildlife poaching including elephant poaching.
Steps to reinvigorate community management of resources
Initiatives from the IUCN, IIED and a local advocacy group called Resilience Advocacy Program (RAP) have tried to
address some of these challenges. The IUCN recognized the importance of the existing local ecological knowledge
among the Borana and used it to drive a social learning process that would lead to adaptive management of the
landscape and resources. From December 2010 to April 2011, IUCN conducted a governance assessment to facilitate
understanding of the existing natural resources management strategies and the governance issues impacting on
the Garba Tula natural resource and livelihood values with the aim of identifying opportunities for strengthening
governance mechanisms. The IUCN developed a partnership with RAP to enable them facilitate a change on the
ground through community sensitization and awareness creation, supporting and strengthening their operations. RAP and IUCN worked together to mobilize the community to re-establish the traditional resource management system and to reinvigorate the dheeda council. Through a participatory process, mapping and documenting the regulations under the dheeda council for the Garba Tula resources was initiated.
IUCN facilitated the capacity building of these representatives in areas of needs assessment, fundraising and on how
to successfully run a community-based organization. The training is aimed at instituting a strong community-based
governance mechanism at the landscape level. The capacity building interventions have helped the community to
identify their weaknesses, strengths, and ways of using the existing resources/opportunities to deal with the problems at the community level. The committee, with the help of RAP mobilized a participatory assessment process through which the priority needs of the community were identified. Water was identified as the major need of the community.
Rehabilitating and protecting water supply sources was made a top priority. With funding acquired from IIED, the
community embarked on the rehabilitation of major water pans in the area. They set up a protective fence around
the water pans to prevent livestock from haphazardly accessing the water or dirtying the water inside. They also
set up a system of managing the water, based on the traditional Borana resource management system. An elder was
nominated to look after each water pan and to ensure equitable access to the resource by all members within the
landscape. From our interviews with local stakeholders, we found that the IUCN did not influence the decisionmaking nor did they dictate on how the resource use planning would be done. Since that time, IIED has become more involved in moving forward the community participatory resource mapping and resource use planning. The community representatives have worked with RAP leaders to map all the resources in the landscape. They further trained a section of these representatives in the use of computer tools (QGIS) to produce a digital map.
This also led to the birth of a county bill on traditional resource management based on the Borana traditional
resource management institutions and practices. The process involved the nomination of two representatives from
each ward or social unit in the area—Kinna, Garba Tula, Sericho, Merti, Jairap and Oldonyiro—to a taskforce. The
representatives of the other communities in the county government level have not endorsed the bylaws mainly
because they feel their communities were not involved in drafting the bill and also that the ownership of the bylaws is mainly in the Borana community’s hands. Some elected officials who are from the Borana community also feel the bill will not be their product since the process of reinvigorating it started before they were elected into office.