The Great Northern Kenya Wildlife Count 2017

Kenya will get another boost in its efforts to conserve wildlife when KWS leads a total count of elephants, buffaloes, Grevy’s Zebras and Reticulated Giraffe in the greater northern landscape of Kenya. This year’s count will focus on these four charismatic and endangered species in an effort to establish their total numbers.

From November 19th to 30th, approximately 15 aircraft, with pilots and observers will systematically survey Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo, Marsabit and Meru counties from the air. The collated information will then be compared to past aerial survey counts of wildlife. Comparing the information helps us to evaluate the success of our landscape and species conservation efforts and will provide us with information on where we might concentrate future conservation resources. Trends in land use, livestock, and human settlements are also noted.

This year’s total count is supported broadly by various conservation organisations of this great landscape. They will be presenting to the public and members of the press in an opening ceremony at Sarova Shaba Game Lodge on November 20, 2017. They will be joined by international, national, and County representatives to learn more about the aerial survey, issues and trends in conservation in northern Kenya.

The Great Northern Kenya Wildlife Count includes an area of more than 65,516.96 sq. kilometres and will take 7 full days (at a minimum) to cover by aircraft.

This area is singularly one of Kenya’s great wildlife conservation areas. Wildlife survives here because of the goodwill of its residents, including land use that supports or tolerates wildlife.

USAID is providing funding support through a grant to KWS, and many organisations, companies and individuals are volunteering their time and expertise to make this year’s count a success.

For more information, please contact John Gitonga at or Dr. Shadrack Ngene at

This initiative is proudly supported by:
Mpala Research Centre, LWF, Space for Giants, KWS, USAID, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, NRT, Ewaso Lions, Marwell Trust, Lion Landscapes, San Diego Zoo, Grevy Zebra Trust, Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK), Save the Elephants, Samburu Trust.

CIDP County Engagement Begins This Month

On August 25th, the Steering Committee Members of the 5-County CIDP Improvement effort mapped out the next four to five months of engagement with the County Governments of Marsabit, Isiolo, Laikipia, Samburu and Baringo.

The effort is led by LWF, with the help of the FAO Community Land Project, the Mpala Research Centre, the Northern Rangelands Trust, the National Arid and Semi-arid Lands Stakeholder Forum/NDMA, and the Agile and Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI).

Meet the CIDP Team (from left to right): Margaret Wambua, Stanley Ngatia and Peter Hetz from LWF; Gabriel Nyausi from NRT, John Gitonga from Mpala, Hussein Wario, FAO, and Omar Jibril, National ASAL Stakeholder Coordinator. Absent from the photo is AHADI representative, Lucy Kimani.

This Consortium will focus on improvements to CIDPs for rangelands, livestock, water, land use, and wildlife. We are providing key information accumulated from partners, research, and communities to ensure it informs the next generation of CIDP decision-making and financing.

Full CIDP teams will be dispatched to Counties in September, to help with the planning and budgeting process.

Please find an updated CDIP and County Annual Development Plan calendar explained here.

For further information about this, or if you have suggestions on what should be included in the CIDPs, please contact Stanley Ngatia on

Remember: Stay Engaged! Get Informed!

Bring Black Back

Charity Ball for Laikipia’s Black Rhino Renaissance

The Laikipia Wildlife Forum, together with Dance Savoir Faire, and Dancesport Kenya are offering a ball and safari weekend that combines a unique dance opportunity with support for rhino conservation in the Laikipia landscape. The ball is set to take place on the 28th of October at Kongoni CampThe Laikipia Wildlife Forum, together with Dance Savoir Faire, and Dancesport Kenya are offering a ball and safari weekend that combines a unique dance opportunity with support for rhino conservation in the Laikipia landscape.  The ball is set to take place on the 28th of October at Kongoni Camp.

This dance journey began earlier this year when 3 Rhino Conservancies – Borana, Ol Pejeta and Ol Jogi received support from the USAID-Kenya/US Department of the Interior in support of endangered species conservation. The grant, administered by LWF, was used to train rhino conservancy rangers, purchase equipment, and train sniffer dogs. According to the Association of Private Land Rhino Sanctuaries (APLRS), Laikipia hosts more than 50% of Kenya’s black rhino population. Kenya’s vision 2030 aims to have a total population of 2000 black rhinos, a huge goal in 13 years. Tsavo and Laikipia are the best hosts of rhinos to meet this goal.

Given present conservation efforts, private rhino conservancies spend between 30 – 40,000 US dollars per/acre per year for rhino conservation. These include both direct and indirect costs associated with rhino conservation.

Most of this money used for rhino conservation on private land comes from a multiple land use approach (tourism, livestock and some agriculture) and donor funding. At present levels, most private conservancies will be hard-pressed to meet the national goal, as well as meet the escalating costs of rhino conservation without some level of government intervention, economies of scale, or both.

The “Bring Black Back” charity ball represents a unique opportunity to dance ballroom with a Strictly Come Dancing professional, while learning of and supporting the Laikipia vision to develop rhino conservation as a landscape management tool.

Major investment by conservancies has proved successful, and Laikipia has been one of the leaders.  Laikipia even hosts the last known Northern White Rhinos with the greatest hope for preventing extinction of this species.
Laikipia has been facing challenges recently, but looks forward to finding peaceful ways forward towards sustainable landscape conservation for the benefit of all citizens, livestock and wildlife. Select Laikipia conservancies have shown that Black Rhino conservation can be a tool for peace and security, for revenue generation and employment, for revenue sharing and livelihoods, and for biodiversity, habitat and landscape conservation. It’s a model that can be replicated.

We have a dream – for the greater Laikipia area, to be a world leader in rhino conservation, hand- in-hand with sustainable management of its resources. Let us collaborate for this goal of mutual benefit and celebrate it with the joy of dance.

Save The Date and Book Your Ticket Now

The Rhino Ball will be held on Saturday 28th October in Nanyuki at Kongoni Camp. It will include dinner and a performance from Andrew Cuerden, a Strictly Come Dancing professional and his partner Christin Neisler, live music by renowned band “The Itch”, and dancing till late.

Additional tickets can be obtained that include a group dance class on the Saturday morning and a discounted pass into Ol Pejeta Conservancy on the Sunday to see rhino conservation in action.

Both group and private dance, and yoga classes are also possible by arrangement. Sweetwaters Serena Camp on Ol Pejeta will host those who wish to purchase a weekend ticket and will arrange transfers to and from the Ball.

There are only 100 Ball Tickets Available! Basic tickets are Ksh 5,000 per person and include a fabulous dinner with complimentary wine, as well as all set festivities for the night.  If coming with friends, reserve a table to avoid disappointment.

For more information about tickets contact:

  1. Select the MPESA service On Your Phone
  2. Select Lipa Na MPESA
  3. Select Pay Bill
  4. Enter Business Number: 898370
  5. When asked for Account Name: Please Type In: Rhino (Your Full Name)
  6. Pay

To find out more about private or group dance lessons on Saturday, October 28, or for discounted access to Ol Pejeta Conservancy to see rhino conservation in action on Sunday, October 29, please contact: Dr. Kes Smith on:

For more information about LWF’s support to rhino conservation, please contact:  John Gitonga on:

The Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign Needs Your Help

In Kenya, the majority of annual rabies-related deaths occur where vaccination programs are limited or non-existent, and where low income communities reside. The Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign (LRVC) begun in 2015 by the Mpala Research Centre in order to provide real-time health benefits for these vulnerable communities, as well as domestic animals and wildlife. Last year’s campaign saw over 4, 000 dogs vaccinated as a result of support from various partners that included Bruce Ludwig, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, the County Government of Laikipia, and Ol Pejeta Conservancy among others.

In Laikipia, we know that there are significant numbers of undocumented rabies cases in domestic animals, wildlife and humans annually. When faced with such statistics we must ask ourselves – can the strategy of making Laikipia Kenya’s first rabies free county really work? The answer is a resounding YES, but only if Laikipians as well as County Government can work together to eradicate this deadly virus.

If we take informed steps, we can significantly minimise exposure to rabies and accomplish Kenya’s 2030 vision of being an entirely rabies free nation. We will however not be able to reach this goal without your help.
The 2017 LRVC plans to widen its scope and reach out to more people.

The campaign will take place over the weekends in October and into November, if necessary. Our goal is to vaccinate over 5,000 dogs and cats during this period. The campaign will target approximately 20 communities bordering Mpala Research Centre as well as Ol Jogi, Segera, Ol Pejeta, Loisaba, Ol Lentille, Karisia/Tumaren, Naibunga, Lewa and Borana Conservancies.

How You Can Help
Your support is crucial to our efforts. The number of students, vets and community members who are always willing to volunteer is always encouraging but we do need more financial support.
The 2017 LRVC, which now includes Distemper, is predicted to cost approximately Ksh 2M (USD $20, 000). With this money we will be able to cover the costs of:

  • Over 5000 Rabies and Distemper vaccines
  • Transport, accommodation and meals for all LRVC staff and volunteers during the campaign
  • Production of rabies civic education material

LWF and Mpala Research Centre will give a full transparent account of how all monies donated will be utilised, as well as a final report after completion of the campaign.

To donate please use the following:


  1. Select the MPESA service On Your Phone
  2. Select Lipa Na MPESA
  3. Select Pay Bill
  4. Enter Business Number: 991503
  5. When asked for Account Name: Please Type In Your Full Name
  6. Donate

For bank transfers, please use:
Bank: Stanbic Bank
Account Number: 0100004071926
Swift Code:
Account Name: Laikipia Wildlife Forum

For more information, please contact John Gitonga on
Laikipia Wildlife Forum will be working with the LRVC, led by Mpala Research Centre, and will keep you up to date on this very important initiative.

Rabies is an almost invariably fatal disease for both humans and animals. Vaccination of domestic animals is a critical step that we should all participate in for the protection of domestic animals, our already fragile wildlife population and most importantly, public health.

Together, we can eradicate rabies in Laikipia!

Conservation: Cutting Across Generations

Just how different is the opinion about Rhino conservation between an elder and young lady living in Il Ingwesi community? LWF recently met Mzee Lesaila Kirobi (MLK) and Fiona Saman, a recent high school graduate to find out….


LWF: What does Rhino conservation mean to you Mzee Kirobi?

MLK: I have lived in this community for over 60 years and so I have been able to see the changes that have happened here…. some good and some not so good. When I was a young boy I had no idea what conservation was. We lived with our wild animals because that is how my father and his father before that lived. Then things started to change and it took me some time before I understood why this foreign term – this Rhino conservation – was important and necessary. I have seen what Borana Conservancy has been able to accomplish over many years and I must say we have benefitted greatly from their work. And so conservation means that my grand children, and their children, can see the animals that I grew up with. Today, I try as much as I can to make sure that my community understands this. Conservation is for our benefit and that of our children.

LWF: But are there really benefits associated with Rhino conservation?

MLK: Yes! I have seen it with my own eyes. Children have been able to go to school. We also had some schools that were breaking down and now; they have been fixed so that learning can continue. You see, I also know that when we are talking about Rhino conservation, we are talking about conservation of many other animals, because they too benefit. They benefit from the land and grass that is protected, the security provided and the support given by those that do not live here.

LWF: Are there any other benefits, and where would you like to see improvement?

MLK: The wider community has also benefitted greatly as Borana helps us when we face security challenges. For example, cattle rustlers recently invaded our land…. it was a terrible situation. Borana sent in their team to help us get back our cattle. They also put in place a system that allows our animals to graze in the conservancy during times of drought.

It would be good if Borana continues to extend additional support and assistance to the community by improving the infrastructure of more schools in the area so that more children can attend. We old people would like our children to have more opportunities then we did! We would like our children to take what we have taught them (and what our elders before that taught us), and combine that with contemporary education so that they can earn an income to sustain themselves and their families. This can be done through activities such as strengthening the Livestock to Market Program.

LWF: Do you have easy access to conservation information?

MLK: Yes, the conservancy shares information on Rhino conservation activities regularly. I use this information to talk to community members who do not understand conservation. I also try and make members of the community comfortable enough to forward names of those with bad intentions that affect our well being and that of our wildlife and environment.



Fiona Saman (FS) is a 17-year-old young lady from Il Ngwesi community and a beneficiary from the Borana Education Program. She recently completed her high school education and will be the first in her family to join the University of Nairobi this September. Her passion lies in conservation and has vowed to return after completing her studies so that she can empower other community members to work together so that they can manage their natural resources.

LWF: How long did you receive support from Borana Conservancy?

FS: I received support since the very first day I joined high school – so four years in total. My family and I were very happy because we did not know how I would complete my studies. We just didn’t have the funds. I never thought I would complete high school let alone join the University to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology! I am so grateful! This is my brother….I hope he too can go to University.

LWF: Do you think conservation works?

FS: Absolutely! I am not the only one that sees that and I want more young people to understand the importance of conservation. Members of my community have been employed by nearby conservancies and also sell their produce and other items in order to get the money they need to support their families, and also other members of the community. That is how we live. But what motivates me the most is the thought that children born in 10 to 20 years might not see the beautiful animals that we have grown up with. I always tell young people that they can be a part of conservation in their own way, even if it’s just protecting their immediate environment. These are our animals; this is our environment, so we must protect it.

LWF: Do you find resistance when talking to your family and community about conservation?

FS: We always have to talk about conservation in a way that makes sense to the people who do not quite understand that big word – con-ser-va-tion! Growing up, we were told of stories of how our grandparents lived with animals and made sure that they were safe. Today, it is a little more difficult as there are people who value money much more than they do our animals and environment. In my view, the best way forward for conservation is for us to practice what was practiced all those years ago, working closely with conservationists and that is what I tell my friends and they seem to agree.

End Note

Through a concept proposal submitted by Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF), the US Government through the Department of Interior (DOI) generously gave a grant in 2016 to “Enhance Security in Laikipia’s Rhino Sanctuaries”. The grant was set to focus on: a) Capacity building b) Anti poaching efforts c) Deterrence to Wildlife Trafficking to three conservancies in Laikipia namely: Ol Pejeta, Ol Jogi and Borana. LWF has gone a step further and wants to understand the perception of Rhino conservation among communities surrounding conservancies in Laikipia, in order to support the development of a communication awareness plan for these communities. Join the conversation by following Laikipia Wildlife Forum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@laikipiaforum).

#VifaruWetuMaliYetu (Our Rhinos, Our Wealth)!

We Don’t Have To Live In Antarctica To Be Rabies Free


You can see the zeal in her eyes as she lures her dog towards us. Sanaipei had learnt that 40% of people bitten by rabid animals are children under 15 years of age, with domestic dogs contributing to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans. This is all thanks to the Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign (LRVC). Sanaipei wants to make her home safe for her children and ensure that they get enough information to make the right decisions when dealing with a dog bite. With the exception of Antarctica, rabies cases are still being reported in countries all over the world – mostly those in developing nations.

The Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign started in 2015 with the aim of providing real-time health benefits for people, domestic animals and wildlife. The long term goal is to make Laikipia Kenya’s first rabies-free County. Human, wildlife and dog deaths caused by this disease are still reported in significant numbers, which is quite alarming as populations of “man’s best friend” are on the rise. Participants in the LRVC spent six days under the scorching sun, with angry, stubborn dogs and successfully vaccinated seven hundred and forty three dogs. Last year, over four thousand dogs were vaccinated in twenty days.

Just like all other initiatives, the LRVC has had several challenges, some which can be managed while others are simply beyond human control – like the weather. However, we have had overwhelming support from various partners such as Mpala Research Centre, Laikipia Wildlife Forum and Ol Pejeta Conservancy among others. The number of students, vets and community members who are always willing to volunteer is always encouraging but we do need more of their support and that of the Laikipia County Government.

This year’s LRVC will take place over the 4 weekends in October. Our goal is to vaccinate 5,000 dogs and cats during this period. The campaign will target approximately 20 communities bordering Mpala, Ol Jogi, Segera, Ol Pejeta, Loisaba, Ol Lentille, Karisia, Naibunga, Lewa and Borana Conservancies.

By 2030, Kenya hopes to be a rabies free nation, and Laikipia is leading efforts to ensure this vision becomes a reality. In the meantime, we hope to see Sanaipei once again with the same zeal and determination to end rabies, starting with her dog Poppy, this time bringing along neighbours and friends for the same cause.

Laikipia Wildlife Forum will be working closely with the LRVC and will keep you up to date on this very important initiative, so stay tuned!

About the writer:

Wangechi Kiongo is a student from Karatina University currently working on the LRVC.

Important Updates From MKEWP

Burguret WRUA Holds Successful Elections

We would like to congratulate Burguret Water Resource Users Association (BWRUA) who recently successfully conducted their elections. Mr. Stephen Mbau has been elected chairman, saying that he looks forward to leading the WRUA in spearheading the following objectives:

  1. Promoting legal water abstractions.
  2. Creating a forum for conflict resolution.
  3. Promoting dialogue between water users and the government.

Burguret River Sub-Catchment covers 210 square kilometres and serves over 25, 000 people, from Rongai to Naromoru.

Meet the new committee (From L to R):

Chairman – Mr Stephen Mbau (0722248137)

Treasurer – Mrs Purity Muthoni

Vice Chairman – Mr Maurice Maina

Secretary – Mr Ngarara

Vice Secretary – Mr Kiguthara

Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) serves as the secretariat to the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP) who conducted the elections in partnership with the Water Resource Authority (WRA).

A Powerful New Partnership Is Born

MKEWP has entered into a new partnership with Wetlands International (WI).The primary objective is to support local WRUAs in protecting water resources within the upper Ewaso Ng’iro North Catchment Area, and provide capacity building to effectively manage their activities, as well as understand their role as stipulated in the new Water Act (2016).

This year, our efforts will focus on:

  • Sub Catchment Management Plans (SCMP) for Kudoti WRUA.
  • Water Allocation Plans (WAP) for Teleswani WRUA.

Tribute to Generose Andeso


It is with great sorrow that we announce the recent death of our dear colleague and Ngobit WRUA Chairlady – Generose Andeso. Generose passed away unexpectedly after a short illness in Kakamega.  She selflessly served Ngobit WRUA since its establishment, guiding the WRUA in developing its Sub Catchment Management Plan. She was key in mobilising valuable resources for the WRUA, which also received support from LWF, the Water Sector Trust Fund and Fauna and Flora International through Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Genrose was loved and admired for her consistent commitment to the water sector. She was well known for her participation and contribution to new water policies within the County and at the Basin level. Her incredible spirit brought together upstream and downstream water users resulting in important dialogue that greatly supported conflict resolution. We are all united in our grief and our memories of her incredible spirit.

The Elephant Man Does It Again




When Jim Justus Nyamu, a-k-a the “Elephant Man”, walked into the LWF offices over 5 years ago claiming that he had grand plans to walk from Nairobi to Marsabit in support of Elephant conservation, intrigue quickly merged with some scepticism. But LWF’s membership believed in this ambitious cause from the very beginning and has been supporting Jim with both financial and in-kind donations ever since.

To date, the “Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk Campaign” has received enormous support from the Kenyan Government, foreign governments represented in Kenya such as Ireland and the US, County Governments, big corporations as well as wildlife and environmental Ministries. First Lady, H.E. Mrs Margaret Kenyatta has also supported the cause.

Jim, the founder of Elephant Neighbours Centre (ENC) and Research Scientist, has now walked 10,457 km which includes an astounding 3,480 km walked in the East Africa region (Kenya – Tanzania – Uganda 2016).

ENC is a Non-profit Organisation whose mission is to protect the African elephant and secure landscapes for elephants outside protected areas. The organisation places emphasis on a three-tier approach: integrating community knowledge, environment and livelihoods in resolving principal problems and bias facing conservation in Kenya.

The Ivory belongs to Elephants campaign has also involved 2, 198 learning institutions and held over 3, 780 community meetings in Mombasa, Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Samburu, Mt. Kenya and the Tsavo Conservation Area just to name a few.

Jim’s 2017 Nairobi – Mt. Kenya – Marsabit walk covered 617 km in 32 days. On his journey, he managed to meet with 51 communities and also attended the Loiyangalani Cultural Festival held on the shores of Lake Turkana in Marsabit County in order to create awareness about elephant conservation. All the meetings were organised and coordinated by County Commissioners and KWS.

The organising team also felt strongly that the 2017 walk needed to address issues surrounding the growing conflict between cattle herders and ranchers in Laikipia. These conflicts have resulted in the unprecedented killings of wildlife, burning of tourism facilities that generate vast amounts of money for the County’s development, not to mention the devastating loss of too many Kenyan lives.

In 2007, the elephant population stood at 20,376 in Kenya. Today, the numbers are significantly lower making this species critically endangered as a result of poaching and habitat loss. Despite global attention to the plight of elephants, their population sizes and trends are uncertain or unknown. To conserve this iconic species, conservationists need timely, accurate data on elephant populations.

Notable strides are being made to save this iconic species. The corridor that connects Mt. Kenya and Lewa’s Ngare Ndare Forest is working well and conservationists hope that other heavily wildlife populated areas in the country can borrow a leave from this. Elephants and other wildlife migrate when they are either looking for water, pasture, salt licks and even medicinal plants! These form fundamental reasons for opening, maintaining and conserving wildlife corridors and habitats.

The two most recent elephant aerial surveys indicate a decline in elephants in the Marsabit ecosystem, which has two distinct habitats: the forested and savanna habitats. It would be prudent to carry out an independent forest survey in Marsabit National Park to establish how many resident forested elephants utilize the forest, density distribution and threats.

LWF will continue to support Jim as he plans for the 2018 Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk Campaign, and we hope you can too! To find out more, please contact Jim on:

Phone: +254 723 398 190 Email:

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling – Keep Those Rivers Flowing

The National Drought Management Authority has made public that we are about to face the worst drought since 2009/2010 stating, “the damages and losses as a result of the drought will be unprecedented”. This is in response to the current drought situation. Various sectors have been encouraged to come up with interventions to mitigate the drought that is expected to take place between June and October 2017. Other stakeholders have been encouraged to source for funds in order to assist local communities.

As we brace ourselves for this drought, the MKEWP continues to urge members of the public to remain vigilant in order to protect our limited water resources. A quick situation assessment carried out by the Partnership and WRA officials has revealed that the water situation is dire. Naro Moru, Rongai, Kareminu, Ontulili and Sirimon rivers have already started drying up. Other rivers like Timau, Burguret, Moyok, and the Upper Ewaso Ng’iro have diminished flows. The drought will only put more pressure on these rivers.

During the January-April dry spell, MKEWP worked with the WRA and various WRUAs to mitigate the water crisis. This involved WRUAs implementing River Water Rationing Programs, while the WRA helped with compliance. One of the lessons learnt in this exercise was the need to start these efforts before the rivers dry up. We must take on a much more proactive approach when dealing with water crisis management. Restoration of river flows is extremely difficult where rivers have dried up, and the only significant improvement on flows is in rivers that had minimal flows.

The new Water Act 2016 has enhanced the role of WRUAs in Water Resource Management. As water users within our respective sub-catchment, we all have a role to play in the management of water resources. WRUAs provide us with this mechanism and their membership is open to all water users in their sub-catchment. Don’t know which WRUA you belong to? Call  LWF on +254 726 500 260 to find out.

The WRUAs play an important role in managing water shortages. Their job is to ensure that water is available for all the users within their sub-catchment. This role has become very challenging due to lack of finances to support operations such as the implementation of rationing programs, and monitoring activities. To address this, MKEWP is developing a partnership agreement with Wetlands International to support the WRUAs. MKEWP, through its secretariat LWF, will also make available a simplified popular version of the Water Act so that we can all know what the law says about Water Resource Management and, more importantly, how we can participate and stay engaged in the conservation of our catchment areas.

Smart Water for Agriculture is Good For Business!

There is no doubt that the Irrigation Acceleration Platform (IAP) in Laikipia County is making great strides in water management for the small-holder agriculture sector. The Platform was established in May of this year by the Smart Water for Agriculture Program of SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation). This Project aims to increase income and food security for households around the County.

The Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP) is supported by an LWF secretariat. We joined SNV to organise a communications workshop tailored for IAP county host leaders and farmer group representatives from five counties.

We implemented a 3-day workshop that focused on how best IAP leaders in the counties, and farmer group representatives, can communicate with farmers, financiers and suppliers. Powerful stories from farmers emerged from the workshop. Here’s one of them:

Ephraim Kagi Kahenya (EKK) is an active member and Secretary for the Naro Moru Water Resource Users Association (NWRUA). For over a decade now, Ephraim has been remarkably consistent in spreading the word about the importance of our catchment areas and encouraging communities to participate in various water conservation activities. His contagious enthusiasm shone through as we talked more about his work.

LWF: Why did you become a member of the Naro Moru WRUA?
EKK: I joined NM-WRUA in 2002 so that I could work with communities in the area. This is after leaving my job in Nairobi. I was extremely concerned that there were so many people without jobs. Also, I was worried a great deal about the state of the river; it just was not flowing due to mismanagement. Many members of my community had started to engage in get-rich-quick schemes that led to obstruction of the river and caused conflicts. I felt I had to do something about it.

LWF: Have you always lived in Naro Moru?
EKK: Yes, but I left to go look for work in Nairobi so that I can support my young family. I was a part of the hospitality sector for over 5 years before I decided to come back home and engage with community members on issues surrounding water conservation. The problems had become personal to me. I wanted to change things.

LWF: In what areas did you want to see the greatest change?
EKK: Water Storage is the most important thing! I have seen how people suffer during dry periods like this one we are going through now. People forget that sometimes water in the rivers dwindle so much that there is barely enough for our houses let alone for other activities like farming. People should move away from the notion that river water is the only source of water all year round.

LWF: Do you practice what you preach?
EKK: Of course! Over 10 years ago I put up simple greenhouses that had 2 functions. One was to protect my crops from the elements and the other was to construct greenhouses that can collect water when it rains. I also constructed a small dam (he says laughing). When I first started many years ago, my neighbours thought I had won some sort of lottery, but these structures were very inexpensive. I am open with my neighbours about how much they cost, so that they too can build similar structures

LWF: Have you seen a change in the way your neighbours are farming as a result?
EKK: Absolutely! You see, I use very little water because of the drip irrigation system that I installed. I am currently growing tomatoes, chillies, snow peas, onions and garlic. This supports my entire family, and I even have something left after meeting all my costs. The dam as well as the water structures that I have put up store enough water to support both my farming and household needs. Can you imagine that we now have 10 demo-sites based on my model thanks to the Water Services Trust Fund! The sites provide farmers with a platform to learn more about smart water irrigation and other practices that they can implement. The Trust Fund also gave us finances to put up water harvesting structures for all public institutions along the river. This means the school children get water even when taps around town have run dry, which is very important.

LWF: So your challenges are few and far between?
EKK: Oh, I wish that was so! We are definitely witnessing change in how people farm, but we are human. There are conflicts that erupt between those farming upstream and those downstream because of abstractions especially during dry periods. But this does not need to happen if people would just invest a little in water harvesting structures. Farmers need to be more cautious and informed about how they farm, and I sing this song for anyone who will listen, even to the children and youth in my town. Farmers also need to get information about how much water they need, and implement smart water solutions…. Even go as far as to test their soil. The County Government provides these services through mobile labs; it is just a matter of paying them a visit!

LWF: So the County Government provides much needed solutions as well?
EKK: Oh yes! The only thing that I would like to encourage is that the government simplify the results from the various tests they carry out for the farmers. They must make more effort in translating the information resulting from the tests, so that the right decisions are made.

LWF: How will this communications workshop help you?
EKK: I can now plan ahead and tell people more about the activities that the NMWRUA carries out. I want more people to know our stories so that other WRUAs in Laikipia and beyond can implement smart water solutions when farming. We need to stop working as if we are not part of a larger landscape! Once we do that I am sure we will see less conflicts and more water in our rivers. The workshop has also built my confidence, so that I can approach different stakeholders in order to come up with a better way of doing things

LWF: What else do you want people to know?
EKK: Join your WRUA and install water harvesting structures! As long as you are part of a catchment community you should join your local WRUA. This is very important for change. It is a place where solutions to our water problems can be designed and implemented with the help of our partners such as SNV and LWF. Your participation will teach future generations on the importance of community participation and engagement.

End Note
SNV’s Smart Water for Agriculture Program aims to contribute to better water management for small-holder agriculture and increased income and food security. The target is to increase water productivity by 20% for 20,000 SME farmers in 5 counties in Kenya (Laikipia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Machakos, and Meru) toward secured water access for production and resilience to climate change. This means assistance to 4000 small and medium scale farmers in Laikipia. LWF, through MKEWP, is supporting this very important platform and is the secretariat of the Partnership.