The nexus between land cover changes, politics and conflict in Eastern Mau forest complex, Kenya

Kweyu, R. M., Thenya, T., Kiemo, K., & Emborg, J.

There is growing literature that links land cover changes to resource governance regimes. Whereas natural resource degradation has been successfully linked to weak governance, the reciprocal relationship between degradation and conflict has not been clearly established especially in sub-Saharan region where natural resource conflicts are common. This paper utilizes remote sensing and spatial techniques to examine land cover changes and conflict in light of the changing Kenyan policy and political contexts. The paper draws evidence from data collected through time series of satellite imagery for Eastern Mau forest complex between 1976 and 2014 and qualitative data including key informant interviews and observation through geo-coded transect walks. The changes in land cover and conflict intractability were analyzed in light of post-independence land use policy history of Kenya and related to conflict occurrences among Eastern Mau forest adjacent communities. The study results show that between 1976 and 2014 over 40% of forest land was converted to other uses. The study also documents both spatio-temporal drivers of conflict (e.g. forest degradation) and drivers related to political practice and competition among ethnic groupings. This paper concludes that to stem land cover changes there is need to pay greater attention to the underlying factors to land cover changes such as conflict, policy and politics.