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.

Here’s Why You Should Get Involved In The Ewaso Ng’iro Camel Caravan

The 2017 Ewaso Ng’iro Camel Caravan is scheduled to take place from the 21st to the 25th of July. A number of registered volunteers and partners shall join the 5 days walk that aims to sensitize river users on the need to conserve the Ewaso Ng’iro River. The Caravan will kick off from Ilmotiok Community, Laikipia County, and will journey downstream to end at Archers Post, Samburu County. Participants in the Camel Caravan will spend time with every host community along the way, in a series of interactive sessions that will include screening of documentaries that focus on the need to conserve the Ewaso Ngi’ro Basin Ecosystem.
MKEWP, whose secretariat is Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF), will be supporting this initiative, and will be bringing together downstream and upper stream users to engage in meaningful dialogue around issues surrounding cooperative management and conservation of the Basin.

Rivers can both unify and divide us. The increase in human populations, as well as agricultural activities, infrastructure development and the effects of climate change has put tremendous strain on our water resources. Water users both upstream and downstream often lack a shared understanding of the threats facing a particular river system, and fail to effectively collaborate around integrated water resources management. This is leading to conflict and an escalation of the threats facing river systems.
Kenya’s Ewaso Ng’iro Camel Caravan is a unique example of a river journey initiative, based upon pastoralist traditions. The Ewaso Ng’iro River finds its source on the north-western slopes of the iconic Mt Kenya, and flows through arid and semi-arid lands into the Merti Aquifer and Lorian Swamp, after which it passes through Somalia, joining the Jubba River. The Ewaso Ng’iro River supports livelihoods of approximately 3.6 million people.

The overall purpose of the Ewaso Ng’iro Camel Caravan is to promote cooperation and collaboration between upstream and downstream users to mitigate threats on the ecosystem as well as conflict between users. This initiative started in 2013, with the first edition funded by Partners for Resilience, IMPACT, MIDP and WRUEP. Since 2013, the event has attracted a number of stakeholders who are willing to join hands in saving the Ewaso Ng’iro River. The communities living along the Ewaso Ng’iro have used the camel caravan as a platform to engage with other stakeholders, and share the challenges facing them, their environment, and their livelihoods.

IMPACT, who is driving this initiative, invites all interested stakeholders to assist with funding or contribute in any way they can. Broad support and participation will ensure the success of this initiative.

This worthwhile cause needs your participation and help. Please contact the organisers for further information:

Joseph Lejeson Olendira: olendira@gmail.com

Olekaunga Johnson: olekaunga@yahoo.com / impactkenya2002@gmail.com

0722663090, or 0726766447.

You can also download more information about the event here.

Map Source: De Leeuw et al, 2012, Benefits of Riverine Water Discharge into the Lorian Swamp, Kenya.

The Future of Our Wildlife Depends On The Success Of The National Wildlife Conservation and Management Strategy

Kenya has experienced a 70% decline in wildlife numbers over the last 30 years. Extinction now challenges iconic species like wild dogs, cheetahs, lions, rhinos and giraffes, not to mention scores of other smaller animals, plants and insects. 16 months ago, we were forecasting the extinction of several vulture species in the Country.

Only Laikipia and parts of the Upper Ewaso Ng’iro landscape have seen wildlife numbers remain constant over this same period. But we continue to lose species diversity.

Efforts are still underway to collect inputs to the formulation of the National Wildlife Conservation and Management Strategy for Kenya after a public participation meeting held in Nanyuki on Thursday the 22nd of June. Turnout was mixed, with no county government representatives from any of the northern counties. On Friday, June 30th, the Formulation Team was in Kisumu, and then proceeded to Nakuru on Monday, July 3 where further inputs were collected. The final public engagement will occur at the Coast, in Mombasa later this week.

These efforts are collecting important inputs into the themes and approaches that should be adopted as part of a national strategy.

So far, discussions have focused on 5 major themes: (1) Space for wildlife; (2) Human-wildlife conflict; (3) Partnerships that support wildlife conservation; (4) Benefit sharing; and, (5) Research and Development.

This new National Strategy has never been more important. It’s probably our final wake-up call to get national conservation actions right. The Strategy must parallel Vision 2030, and it must demonstrate real tangible benefits to Kenyans living with, or tolerating wildlife on their lands – not the lip-service that is paid to benefit sharing and compensation to date. It must shore-up Kenya’s protected area system, and get KWS back on track.

It is estimated that we may only have 10-12 years remaining to establish the underpinnings of a successful national wildlife conservation effort. After that, our populations of wildlife will be reduced to exotic zoos and isolated islands of private wildlife collections. By 2030, our human population will have increased to almost 65M citizens – a 42% increase from our population of 2015. Our life expectancy will have increased about 4 years. About half that population will be 15 years old or less, and more than half that total population will earn less than USD $ 2 per day.

What will this Strategy say about maintaining wildlife in contemporary Kenya against these overwhelming statistical facts? It’s up to us. Get engaged! Stay involved!

Find the latest DRAFT of the National Wildlife Policy here.

Anthony King Conservation Leaders Trust

It is more than three years since you all generously helped our Trust through the very successful Mt. Kenya Climb for Conservation. The Climb raised more than Ksh.5 Million and enabled us to provide grants to two unique grassroots conservation leaders.

Although we have not been able to provide you with as much news as we would have liked, we have continued to be involved in the work of both Matthew Chana and Jackson Mbuthia. We would like to share where we are at with the Trust and as well as some of what Matthew and Chana have achieved in the last two years. Click here to download the document