Tugen Trails: The Role of Traditional Knowledge and Local Values of Ecosystem Services in the Rift Valley of Kenya
thesisposted on 28.03.2012, 10:13 by Katharine Elizabeth Moore
The concept of ecosystem services for human well-being is emerging as a strategic framework within environmental governance. It seeks to place values on the ecosystems on which humanity depends. This interdisciplinary study investigates the knowledge and values of ecosystem services for the Tugen people in the Rift Valley of Kenya; for one community, Sandai; and for one sector of that community, women. The study addresses issues of equity of ecosystem service valuations with regard to level of governance and heterogeneity of communities. The questions: ‘Whose value counts?’ and ‘Who pays the price?’ are asked repeatedly. A fresh approach is taken to the methodology by using hodology, the study of paths and interconnected ideas, to explore the natural and the intellectual environments. A long distance trail was walked across the Rift Valley to record links between environment and traditional knowledge. In Sandai, the competing value of the swamps for grazing, cultivation and biodiversity is demonstrated. Walking with Tugen women carrying heavy loads of water raised issues of equity in their roles in management of ecosystems services and their lack of involvement in environmental governance. In ecosystem service assessments women may pay the price for others’ decisions. Participatory video and mapping are linked with these walked trails and local voices are heard alongside my own. Finally, visualisations were produced using different media including Google Earth. Also a mediascape ‘Walking with water’ which enables an embodied understanding of the lives of women. This research demonstrates how local values for ecosystem services are directly related to human needs. It contributes to understanding how traditional knowledge and values may be used in ecosystem service valuations and debates. It argues that commodification of nature is problematic in communities where the ability to pay is hypothetical and presents novel ways in which local values of ecosystem services may be communicated.