12 irrigation management and poverty dynamics: case study of the Nyando Basin in Western Kenya
Brent Swallow, Leah Onyango, Ruth Meinzen-Dick
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Three distinct pathways of irrigation development have been pursued in Kenya over the last 20 years: a topdown planning approach, a centralized service approach and an unregulated smallholder approach. All three pathways have simultaneously unfolded in the Nyando basin flood plain in Western Kenya. Data from a participatory analysis of poverty and livelihood dynamics from villages around the Nyando basin indicate that the incidence of poverty is higher in the flood plain than in the other parts of the basin. Within the flood plain, there are distinct patterns of poverty and livelihood dynamics in areas associated with different approaches to landownership and irrigation management. Over the last 10 years, poverty has risen rapidly to over 40% in the area following the top-down planning approach, increased slowly in smallholder mixed farming areas and remained relatively stable in areas supported by the centralized service agency. Recent changes in Kenya’s water policy offer new opportunities for reforming and reviving the irrigation sector.