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Realities of participatory community-based environmental rehabilitation projects: a case study of soil erosion countermeasures in western Kenya

Yuko Yamane


This study attempts to describe the realities of participatory development projects in western Kenya, where severe soil degradation has occurred, using participatory observation methods. Six aid organizations administered development projects for environmental rehabilitation in the area; however, less than 10% of study area residents participated in project activities. This article argues that this lack of participation was fuelled by a disjuncture of understanding between aid organizations, community-based development organizations, and area residents about project purposes and goals. It suggests that in order for participatory development projects to be successful all stakeholders must understand and take ownership of the project. People who the aid organization called “community” often turned out to be a collection of unconnected people. In addition, not everyone who was involved participated out of a desire to stop soil erosion. Many people were not directly impacted by the gullies and their motivation for participation was purely for economic reasons. Thus, growing seedlings and planting them was seen more as a source of income than as a way to repair and restore the local environment. Such motivations need to be considered when creating participatory development projects

Keywords: participatory development, community development, environmental rehabilitation, Luo, Kenya

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2305-7432