The Indigenous Knowledge of the Pokomo and Their Impact on the Tana River Forests
Mentor:David Mbora, Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, Whittier College
In research conducted in summer 2011, we found the Pokomo people of the Tana River in Kenya use up to 46 forest tree species to build and sustain their houses in each of their 12 villages (Orozco et al. 2011). This research also showed that the Pokomo have access to trees in their community-managed forests but do not have easy access to trees in forests managed by the central government. These findings raised the question, how has human use impacted the forests under community-managed compared to government-managed forests?
I hypothesized that there would be a greater human impact on community-managed forests compared to government-managed forests. I predicted government-managed forests would have larger basal area, higher density, and higher species richness of trees compared to the community-managed forests. I sampled 4 community-managed forests and 4 government -managed forests in the vicinity of the Tana River Primate Reserve (TRPR) using belt transects. I identified all tree species and their Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) in a 5 X 100 meters transect.
Preliminary findings supported my hypothesis that government-managed forests had a larger basal area and density of trees. However, there was no difference in species richness of forest trees between community-managed and government-managed forests. These findings suggest that the conservation methods of the Pokomo are comparable to those applied by the government in the Tana River forests. Thus indigenous groups may have their own effective methods of biodiversity conservation.
Orozco, Amber, David N.M. Mbora, Lara Allen. “The Indigenous Knowledge of the Pokomo”. In preparation. 2011.