Accepted 5th October, 2015
Forests play a key role in the livelihoods of local people in most developing countries. Local communities depend on forests for various products such as fuel wood, construction materials, medicine, and food. Forests in Kenya are threatened by unsustainable uses and conversion to alternative land uses. In spite of the consequences of forest fragmentation, biodiversity erosion and reliance of local communities on forests for ecosystem goods and services there is little quantitative information on forest use and dependence to guide sustainable use. A study was therefore, undertaken in East Mau forest ecosystem to determine (i) forest uses and (ii) the economic dependency of the local communities on forests. Data on socioeconomic, demographic and forest use were collected using semi-structured and structured questionnaire with 367 households and market surveys in adjacent urban centres. The data collected were analyzed using SPPS program. Findings showed that forest income is significant to households contributing up to 33% of household income. Fuel wood (firewood and charcoal) contributed up to 50%, food, 27%, construction material, 18% and grass products (fodder and thatching material) 5% of forest income. These translate to (US$) 509.0, 274.9, 186.2 and 53.4 per household per year respectively. The data authenticated that poor households are more dependent on forest resources. These results provide valuable information on the kind and magnitude of ecosystem values that could be relevant in decision-making concerning biodiversity conservation and management of East Mau Forest ecosystem for enhanced ecosystem goods and services for supporting livelihoods.
Keywords: Forest use, forest product, Absolute forest income, Relative forest income, forest dependence