The policy and institutional environment in Kenya is supportive of pastoral livestock development in the ASALs. The Constitution of Kenya (2010) has provisions for strengthening livestock production and transforming ASAL economies, while Kenya Vision 2030 recognizes the importance of livestock production in the ASALs to overall national agricultural development. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 introduced devolved government with an Executive and an Assembly.
County governments are responsible to provide opportunities for communities and citizens to be more intimately involved in the planning and implementation of development projects that impact on their livelihoods. To support community participation, practical measures are needed to facilitate dialogue and understanding between county government actors and local people. On the one hand, county government staff need to better understand the rationale of local livelihood systems and how different communities plan their activities, particularly in the face of climate change; but, on the other hand, local people also have to understand how county government planning and budgeting systems work.
Participatory digital mapping using satellite imagery and digital earth and other open source Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a practical tool bridging the knowledge and communication gap between pastoral communities and county government planners. It is offering an effective ‘tool’ for participatory planning and decision-making in support of climate change adaptation in the drylands of Kenya.The use of participatory mapping is not new in seeking to capture an understanding of the community and its use of natural resources.
These maps are typically drawn on the ground using stones, bits of wood and other easily available material to depict key features such as schools, water points, forest areas, etc. Such processes produce perception maps rich in local knowledge and reflecting community priorities. From the perspective of government planners, however, such maps are of limited use for planning as they lack accurate scales and coordinates – characteristics essential for demarcating the location and extent of resources on which to develop bylaws for their protection and good management.
The process used in Isiolo County combines digital mapping with community-drawn perception maps. This offers a number of benefits. While fully capturing the wealth of local knowledge, they contain a built in coordinate system which respond to a global reference grid, enabling their linkage to maps used in formal systems. Furthermore, the coordinate system provides a geographically precise basis from which to discuss natural resource management, making outputs of participation in mapping more universally useable.
These benefits, however, need to be carefully balanced to avoid the risk that through this process pastoral resources, that are highly dynamic, are ‘frozen’ in time and space. The flexible nature of digital maps allows users to zoom in and work on specific areas, and then to zoom out to obtain a wider view of the data. This is critical when developing maps of pastoral resources and livelihood strategies that require a presentation of data and analysis at the ecosystem scale, reflecting the dimension at which the system operates.