The present study explores traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of Turkana pastoralists and cultivators in the context of a riverine forest in northern Kenya. The Turkwel River and its floodplain sustain a thick forest, which is used for grazing and extraction of non-timber forest products. However, sedentarisation and agricultural expansion have resulted in localised clear-felling of trees, while river damming has altered the natural flow regime. A series of structured, semi-structured, and group interviews were combined with a botanical inventory in order to assess the relevance of TEK to ecological research and forest conservation. Turkana informants gave 102 vernacular names for the 113 woody species. Of these, 85% had a domestic or pastoral use among the 105 specific uses that were described. Ethnobotanical knowledge was relatively homogenous and not related to age, gender, or source of livelihood. The informants had in-depth knowledge of some key ecological processes. The conceived threats to forest survival were primarily cultivation and permanent settlements, while the effects of river damming and livestock grazing were disputed. A claimed decline in rainfall was confirmed by official data. There is strong evidence that TEK could be used to generate hypotheses for research and to design sustainable conservation strategies. A revised version of the indigenous system of tree management should be incorporated into the official forestry policy in order to resolve future conflicts between pastoralists and cultivators.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: May 12, 2006
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