Kirwa, E.C. 1*, Nyangito, M.M.2 and Nyariki, D.M.2
1Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) - Kiboko P.O. Box 12, Makindu, Kenya
2Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 29053, Nairobi, Kenya
* Corresponding author
Semi arid areas in Kenya are experiencing socio-economic processes leading to land subdivisions and subsequent changes in land-use patterns. Changes in land-use negatively affect the ecological resource base through replacement of native plant species, loss of wildlife habitats and reduced quality and quantity of water. A study was therefore carried out to analyze the possible land use/cover changes in Machakos and Makueni Districts due to subdivision of ranches to smallholder agro-pastoral farms (SMFs). Through interpretation of satellite images for 1976, 1987 and 2000, six cover classes, namely, agriculture, forest, grassed-shrubland, grassland, shrubbed-grassland and shrubland were compared between the different periods of time. Land under cultivation increased by 70% while grassland and forest cover decreased by 1 and 3%, respectively during the 24 year period. There was a decrease in herbaceous cover and an increase in woody density between 1987 and 2000. This could be attributed to shifts in land-use from ranching to agro-pastoralism, where farms have been cleared to give way for cultivation and overgrazing in the small grazing areas.