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Typology of Smallholder Production Systems in Small East-African Wetlands


Small wetlands increasingly become important agricultural production niches in sub-Saharan Africa. Understanding the diversity of these households may help to develop guidelines for their future use. In this study a typology of households in small wetlands was developed using case studies of 275 farmers from Kenya and Tanzania. Based on a combination of production system attributes land resources, and production objectives, households were categorised into 12 farm types. Production resources, access to cropland on upland, access to market, and non-wetland related livelihood strategies differed between households and translated into different wetland use patterns. Farm types were linked to the prevailing wetland systems. The household typology captured various dimensions in values, attitudes, and goals of farmers and determined their influence on land use decisions. The wetland field: farm size ratio differed significantly between farm types. More than one-third of the households depended completely on cropland in the wetland. The variable nature of household dependence was reflected in diverse production orientations with different levels of land use intensity and subsequent pressure on wetlands. The heterogeneity induced agricultural practices among households and the complexity of the wetland system highlight the need for specific incentives to develop sustainable plans for wetland management.

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The authors are grateful to Volkswagen Foundation for funding. Support from National Museums of Nairobi (NMK) and Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE) is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Robert Moris, Freddy Msaki, Gibson Manyeke, and Peter Komotho Mberi for assistance in data collection during the field surveys. Wetland farmers, key informants, agricultural extension officers, area chiefs, and village elders in Korogwe, Lukozi, Karatina, and Rumuruti are appreciated for their invaluable collaboration. We thank Prof. Ken Giller for reading and commenting on an earlier version of this paper. We are also thankful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

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Sakané, N., Becker, M., Langensiepen, M. et al. Typology of Smallholder Production Systems in Small East-African Wetlands. Wetlands 33, 101–116 (2013).

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  • Farm categorisation
  • Floodplain
  • Inland valley
  • Kenya
  • Livelihood diversity
  • Rural households
  • Uplands
  • Tanzania