DYNAMICS IN ARTISANAL GOLD MINING AND ITS IMPACTS ON COMMUNITY LIVELIHOODS AND THE ENVIRONMENT: A CASE OF NANDI AND WEST POKOT COUNTIES, KENYA
YEGO, ELIUD KIBET
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Many studies on Artisanal Gold Mining have estimated that it employs an estimated 13 Million people worldwide, with another 80 to 100 million people directly or indirectly benefiting. In sub Saharan Africa it is viewed as an economic mainstay activity providing direct employment to over two million people. Artisanal gold mining uses rudimentary processes to extract valuable minerals from primary and secondary ore bodies, and is characterized by the lack of long-term mine planning. In Kenya, less is known about how different artisanal gold mining communities operate and it is organised. The artisanal gold mining has negative environmental effects and limited positive transformation on the livelihoods of the local communities involved in Nandi and West Pokot counties. The objectives of the study were to determine the impacts of capital assets accessibility in artisanal gold mining on community livelihoods and their environment, evaluate the impacts of artisanal gold mining organizational dynamics on community livelihoods, examine the impacts of artisanal gold mining value chain on the community livelihoods and determine the concentration levels of selected heavy metals at the mining sites. Social capital theory and sustainable livelihoods framework were utilized in conceptualizing the study. The study employed a descriptive and experimental research design. Simple random sampling was used to select the respondents for interview. Primary data was obtained by using questionnaires, interview schedules, focus group discussions guide, key informants guide, observations, and photography with the laboratory tests for heavy metals being done using Atomic Absorption spectroscopy. Questionnaires were pretested before the actual field survey and the Information gathered during this pre-trial were used to modify the survey tools. Factor analysis upheld the construct validity of the instrument. Study variables had a Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of 0.60 thus the instruments were considered acceptable for explanatory purposes. Descriptive statistics and inferential statistics were used in the analysis of data and the results were presented by use of frequency tables, pie charts and graphs. The findings showed that respondents had low access level to capital assets and the ASM gold value chain is informally structured leading to low earnings and negative environmental impacts. Artisanal gold mining activities were disorderly in nature thereby preventing improved livelihoods and environmental conservation. The concentration levels of the selected heavy metals were: Cr, 0.4195 ppm, Zn, 0.5511 ppm, Cd, 0.2470 ppm, Fe, 3.4950 ppm and Pb, 0.6300 ppm in Nandi county and Cr, 0.1790 ppm; Zn 0.8470 ppm; Cd, 0.0050 ppm; Fe, 2.795 ppm; and Pb, 0.7400 ppm in West Pokot County. In conclusion respondents had low access levels to financial support, technology and unclear market channels. Therefore, study recommends improved access to capital assets for production, organized artisanal sector and a clear structured value chain.