Original Articles

Use and availability of tree and shrub resources on Maasai communal rangelands near Amboseli, Kenya


Abstract

Use of plant resources is critical in understanding resource dependence among poor rural communities. This study investigated use of tree and shrub resources by a local Maasai community, through discussions and a questionnaire. Twenty-four tree and shrub species were utilised for four main purposes: medicinal, fencing, firewood and shelter. These uses were mainly confined to four key species: Acacia mellifera, Acacia xanthophloea, Acacia tortilis and Balanites glabra. Ethno-medicine was the most common use and required smaller quantities of plant materials, followed by firewood and fencing. Construction of shelter was the least of the uses, requiring specific plant resources. The purposes of use, frequency of utilisation and quantities consumed were species-dependent. Though generally common and accessible, plant resource availability and proximity varied among species. The community felt there was a decline in tree and shrub cover due to charcoal burning, land use changes — particularly agricultural expansion — and fencing. Even though tree and plant resources were still available, it is important to monitor their use to avert potential overexploitation.

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