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Remote Sens. 2017, 9(8), 784; doi:10.3390/rs9080784

Agricultural Expansion and Intensification in the Foothills of Mount Kenya: A Landscape Perspective

1
Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 10, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
2
Centre for Training and Integrated Research in ASAL Development, 10400 Nanyuki, Kenya
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 July 2017 / Revised: 27 July 2017 / Accepted: 28 July 2017 / Published: 31 July 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Monitoring Agricultural Land-Use Change and Land-Use Intensity)
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Abstract

This study spatially assesses, quantifies, and visualizes the agricultural expansion and land use intensification in the northwestern foothills of Mount Kenya over the last 30 years: processes triggered by population growth, and, more recently, by large-scale commercial investments. We made use of Google Earth Engine to access the USGS Landsat data archive and to generate cloud-free seasonal composites. These enabled us to accurately differentiate between rainfed and irrigated cropland, which was important for assessing agricultural intensification. We developed three land cover and land use classifications using the random forest classifier, and assessed land cover and land use change by creating cross-tabulation matrices for the intervals from 1987 to 2002, 2002 to 2016, and 1987 to 2016 and calculating the net change. We then applied a landscape mosaic approach to each classification to identify landscape types categorized by land use intensity. We discuss the impacts of landscape changes on natural habitats, biodiversity, and water. Kappa accuracies for the three classifications lay between 78.3% and 82.1%. Our study confirms that rainfed and irrigated cropland expanded at the expense of natural habitats, including protected areas. Agricultural expansion took place mainly in the 1980s and 1990s, whereas agricultural intensification largely happened after 2000. Since then, not only large-scale producers, but also many smallholders have begun to practice irrigated farming. The spatial pattern of agricultural expansion and intensification in the study area is defined by water availability. Agricultural intensification and the expansion of horticulture agribusinesses increase pressure on water. Furthermore, the observed changes have heightened pressure on pasture and idle land due to the decrease in natural and agropastoral landscapes. Conflicts between pastoralists, smallholder farmers, large-scale ranches, and wildlife might further increase, particularly during the dry seasons and in years of extreme drought. View Full-Text
Keywords: land cover and land use change; landscape change; agricultural intensification; greenhouse cultivation; environmental impacts; remote sensing; Kenya land cover and land use change; landscape change; agricultural intensification; greenhouse cultivation; environmental impacts; remote sensing; Kenya
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Eckert, S.; Kiteme, B.; Njuguna, E.; Zaehringer, J.G. Agricultural Expansion and Intensification in the Foothills of Mount Kenya: A Landscape Perspective. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 784.

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