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Water Challenges and Solutions in the Upper Ewaso Basin

The documentary ‘Water and Resilience’ was developed by the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP) with support from various stakeholders from WRUAs, Community Water Projects, WRA, County Governments, Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network among others. Cordaid and Partners for Resilience were the main implementing partners.

The documentary highlights efforts that MKEWP is putting to promote and advocate for protection and restoration of healthy riverine ecosystems  and water security within the Ewaso Basin through two innovative ways:-

  1. WRUA Service Agreement (WSA) – A proposed performance based contract between the WRUAs and the WRA. The agreement provides financial compensation for the functions performed by the WRUA, and thus gives the WRUA the financial resources to carry out their duties. WSA clarifies and structures the relationship between WRA and the WRUAs in terms of regulation and management of water resources. The WRUA becomes the true eyes and ears of the WRA and the action arm of county governments’ riparian responsibilities. It helps the WRA through the regular monitoring of river flows, data collection on legal and illegal abstraction, and it helps the county government in monitoring and managing the degradation of riparian areas and water pollution. This Agreement provides the incentive and means for WRUAs to take up their roles with responsibility and accountability – a WIN-WIN for water, catchments, and citizens in Kenya.
  2. EWASO MAJI USERS SACCO (EMU SACCO) – A community based financier that supports farmers to access finances for household level investments in water harvesting, storage and efficient use. The Sacco encourages water users to be self-reliant and to invest in on-farm and community water conservation infrastructure.

In a period of globally increasing human population, agricultural expansion, infrastructure development, and climate change, water resources in many contexts are becoming scarce, polluted, and contested. Water users, including communities, livestock &wildlife the public sector, and corporate entities, 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.

There are now many initiatives across the world to promote learning, cooperation and unity between water users. MKEWP is a unique example that captures the concerns of many stakeholders regarding the current and future status of the shared water resources in the Ewaso Basin. MKEWP aims through collective efforts to bring about a brighter future in which the water resources are shared, used and conserved in a manner that supports economic and social development while ensuring the integrity of the environment.

Link to the documentary

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Mutara WRUA : The Journey From Water Access Equality to Equity

Members of Mutara WRUA at the Ngusishi Common Intake in October 4, 2019

Water is the most important resource for community members living in Mutara Sub Catchment which lies within Nyandarua County and Laikipia County. The multifaceted uses of water directly impact daily life and human survival of the residents. Within the sub-catchment, different levels and circumstances of water access have the potential to elevate people out of poverty or to condemn them into it.  Precisely, communities living near water sources are engaged in irrigated agriculture farming high-value crops like onions, tomatoes, French and runner beans among others.  The abstraction survey report by WRA in 2017 reveals the extent of increased water abstraction in Mutara Sub Catchment as shown in the figure below:

Cumulative abstractions Source Mutara Abstraction Survey

The significant rise from 1986 to 2017 indicates high-level irrigation in the catchment, signifying a major shift from rainfed agriculture to irrigated agriculture.

The unfortunate consequence of over-abstraction of water for irrigation use in Mutara is the detrimental lack of water for domestic and livestock use by the downstream communities.

Mrs. Nancy Karuri, the WRUA chairperson, on June 17, 2020, observed that water use conflicts have become the order of the day for the communities over competing needs. The Water Resources Regulations prioritizes water for the environment and domestic use over water for irrigation use.  She stated “Our river situation is getting worse every day. We have more and more people coming to lease land for irrigation farming. This has pushed the already high demand for water to the extreme. Our river can no longer sustain the community needs without intervention. We are witnessing conflicts even during the rainy seasons.”

To address this challenge, MKEWP and OPC working together under the financial support from the Laikipia Cattle, Water, and Wildlife project (Funded by Darwin Initiative through Fauna and Flora International) are supporting the WRUA in finding long term solutions to the water resource management challenges within the sub-catchment.

In October 2019, Mutara WRUA visited Ngusishi WRUA in Timau, Meru County to learn about Ngusishi WRUA’s success in managing high water demand for competing needs. The most important take away from this visit was the application of common intake in ensuring equitable water allocation for all and safeguarding the environmental flows.  From this visit, the Mutara WRUA has sensitized its members on the need to develop a common intake that will help prioritize water allocation and support sustainable livelihoods within the community.

To move this forward, MKEWP is coordinating the various stakeholders within the WRUA to support the design, WRA permit approval process, and resource mobilization to construct the intake. On 17th and 19th June 2020, the WRUA conducted two technical meetings with WRA, County Government Representatives from Nyandarua and Laikipia, OPC, and MKEWP to develop the common intake implementation action plan.  The action plan has for 8 milestones as shown in the diagram below:

Common intake milestones to be accomplished by June 2021

This is a robust process for the WRUA and the community members. MKEWP and WRA will provide technical assistance to ensure that the WRUA is successful in achieving all the milestones. The WRUA is counting on Laikipia and Nyandarua County Governments to provide resources and materials needed in the intake construction and pipeline reticulation.

Mutara WRUA common intake technical committee meeting on June 19, 2020

The Community members are ready to contribute to labor where they have committed to do the pipeline trenching and provide labor during the intake construction. Once completed, the project will provide water to a population of 43,480 people living in Nyandarua County (Ndaragwa Ward) and Laikipia County (Salama Ward and Sosian Ward).

If you wish to support this great WRUA initiative, kindly contact:

Mutara WRUA Chairperson

Name                                                             Mobile No.                                    Email Address

Nancy Karuri                                                0725284095                                 mutarawrua@gmail.com


MKEWP Water Resources Specialist

Name                                              Mobile                                            Email Address

James Mwangi                             0727998319                                 james.mwangi@laikipia.org


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Building Back Better

Tourism in the Laikipia landscape continues to suffer – a major victim of Covid-19. Here we share helpful resources:

  1. The results of a survey on the prevailing state of the tourism services in the landscape. These results have been shared with County Government and the Kenya Tourism Board to look at ways both can help guide the rebuilding of the sector.
  2. Two GOK documents providing guidance on reopening the sector:

A number of facilities are working with the County Health Department to reopen. Testing is offered by the County at the ASK Showground in Nanyuki for a cost of Ksh 1000. All samples are sent outside of the County for test results, so it takes some days for you to receive the results.

Due to a shortage of corona virus testing kits in the country, both the tests and results are delayed.

Reopening guidance for hotels and restaurants (and forms) can be found here: http://laikipia.go.ke/application-for-re-opening-of-hotels-restaurants/  Forms A and B guide your re-opening regarding health requirements.

Our biggest opportunity and challenge will remain the opening of the lockdown in Nairobi, and how we position ourselves regarding marketing, destination management, health protocols, quality control, and post visit follow-up.

We expect a serious influx of residents to Laikipia to take advantage of our great diversity of offerings – and we should be a pioneer for managing tourism in the “NEW NORMAL”.

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Laikipia Locust Update

Kenya is experiencing its worst locust invasion for 70 years. The World Bank warns that regional locust swarms could swell current numbers 400-fold by June, causing livestock-related costs and damages of $8.5bn by the end of 2020. Pastoralists in Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya will be worst hit.

The northern Rift Valley has been particularly hard hit, with a new generation of locusts emerging in June. “Hopper” bands, the stage of locust development before they fly, have been spotted in Turkana and Marsabit counties, as well as areas below Lake Turkana.

The FAO is predicting that many of the mature bands will migrate from Kenya in July. Wishful thinking? Many suspect the locusts will seek the warmer climates of South Sudan and Southern Ethiopia.

The much bigger issue remains the way in which locust eradication is being handled. We remain concerned at the pesticides being used and their impacts to livestock, wildlife, and people.

We have published stories in the past alerting our members to the threats

To date, there has been no response from GOK, Donors, or FAO for assessments on the environmental impacts of the Locust Management Program. This report highlights the dangers of the different chemical treatments.

Visit this link for our special report


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Partnerships For Sustainable Conservation Mukogodo Forest

The importance of engaging local communities in conservation is intensified during this time of climate change. Resilience and mitigation strategies to address the impacts of unprecedented weather and natural disasters – for both people and wildlife – will require collaborations at the landscape level and beyond (Lichtenfeld, Naro and Snowden, 2019).

Ilmamusi Mukogodo Forest Association was founded on a collaborative footing. The CFA forms the voice of the local Laikipiak Maasai community living adjacent to Mukogodo Forest Reserve. The community’s premiere collaboration is with Kenya Forest Service after entering into a formal Forest Management Agreement for co-management and conservation of Mukogodo forest. Under the agreement, the user groups which form the Community Forest Association are able to draw benefits such as honey production, herbal medicine, ecotourism, pasture and water, firewood collection among others. In return, they commit to protect, conserve, secure and sustainably utilize forest resources.

The current forest conservation paradigm allows for collective effort to conserve indigenous forests. The community at Mukogodo has embraced collaboration for a number of years with its traditional partners in conservation who include: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Borana Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust. These organizations have remarkable strengths, bringing a wealth of experience in wildlife conservation, fundraising, and law enforcement in conservation areas, ecotourism development and institutional capacity building.

A case in point is Lewa Wildlife Conservation which has mobilized funds for CFA operations continuously for 3 years; Laikipia Wildlife Forum has mobilized funds for Human Elephant Conflicts mitigation, invasive species monitoring and institutional capacity building; Northern Rangelands Trust has enhanced the capacity of community rangers on security and wildlife monitoring, institutional capacity building for the individual group ranches; Borana conservancy has supported local community projects and continues to support the ranger taskforce for the CFA.

The CFA endeavors to gradually build its institutional, technical and financial capacity while moving towards sustainability. Direct collaboration with the different partners and the local communities who are the direct beneficiaries of the forest has ensured continued engagement of all stakeholders in management of the forest.

The wider landscape encompasses Borana Conservancy, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust supported conservancies. The collaboration envisions a common purpose and approach for sustainable conservation of the entire landscape, with emphasis on strengthening socio-economic and ecological initiatives of the local community. The area has similar bio-physical, climatic and rangeland conditions; and the contiguous community lands are embracing the concept of community conservancies. The new NRT conservancies of Makurian and Kuri Kuri are directly connected to Mukogodo forest, and join Lekurruki and Il Ngwesi Conservancies.

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Tourism and the Covid Crisis

How many tourism revival webinars have you been attending? What’s really possible within the next two months? Six months? And Longer?

In the Laikipia landscape, this is what’s at risk – jobs and conservation; jobs and community projects; jobs and taxes, permits and levies; jobs and a host of food and service (e.g. transport) value chains; and jobs and families and basic service payments; and jobs and remittances.

There are several points of light that might help us understand next steps:

  1. The Government has formed a task force to examine ways in which we can move forward. As with many national efforts, their comments tend to focus on a grander scale that we use in the Laikipia landscape. Here’s the task force and the decree.
  2. There are KSH 2 Billion set aside for the industry’s revival. 1 Billion is expected to be released as soft-loans. To whom and for how much is unclear. But that pot of money is to be managed by the Tourism Finance Corporation.
  3. Guidelines, protocols and preparedness – The Government Task Force is expected to lead the preparation of guidelines for phased reopening of the sector. The @LaikipiaTourism Association is working with KTB to help develop the protocols for different facilities and tourism services. Our diversity of tourism offerings and services demands a more nuanced and careful set of precautions and possibilities.
  4. The World Trade Organization has issued guidance in the form of global guidelines to open tourism. You can obtain a copy HERE.

Check out the international priorities for opening!! These are very similar to ours!!

  1. Provide liquidity and protect jobs.
  2. Recover confidence through safety & security.
  3. Public-private collaboration for an efficient reopening.
  4. Open borders with responsibility.
  5. Harmonize and coordinate protocols & procedures.
  6. Added value jobs through new technologies.
  7. Innovation and Sustainability as the new normal.

And check out the latest private sector guidance from KEPSA on getting back to business HERE

Got more ideas for Laikipia??  Perhaps a consortium approach to opening specific facilities and areas for Covid-free visits?

Contact the LTA for more information and to engage tourismlaikipia@laikipia.org

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Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership : Watchdog on Pollution Crimes

Pollution crimes have long endangered the health and safety of our livelihoods on a daily basis. Illegally dumped waste contaminates the soil where food is grown, toxic materials leach into water supplies, and even the air we breathe gets contaminated by environmental polluters.

Illegally dumping of hazardous materials is an easy alternative for polluters, due to the considerable cost of responsible waste disposal.

As a result, precious ecosystems have been left vulnerable, people get sick, wildlife dies, and livelihoods and our economy are threatened.

Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership works with County and Regional Agencies in our member counties to detect and eliminate cases of river pollutions.

One of our regional horticulture farms was found dumping illegal kitchen cooking oil waste in the Nanyuki sewage treatment ponds, killing multiple species of aquatic birds.

In another example, MKEWP has been following up on cases of pollution from whistle blowers on the Likii River. After several warnings given to a farmer who had been polluting the River, action had to be taken.

On 15th May 2020, MKEWP collaborated with the department of Public Health to enforce the public health law. The polluting farmer operates his dairy farm a few meters away from the river. However, all the waste water from that farm is directed to the river, thus creating a health hazard for downstream communities who rely on it. The farmer was arrested and is to be arraigned in court in June to answer for charges of releasing raw waste/waste water into the river.

MKEWP promotes best management practices at farm levels as ways to manage your land and promotes activities to mitigate pollution of surface and groundwater near you. This is another WRUA service.

These practices are usually simple and low-tech. The can benefit your household and land in many ways. Some examples of agricultural best practices include safe management of animal waste, controlling pesticide and fertilizer use, contour farming, crop rotation, and vegetative buffers near rivers, and water storage, conservation and management.

Want to know more about the pollution, pollution law, and best practices? Contact your MKEWP representative susan.gathoni@laikipia.org or Laikipia Forum at communications@laikipia.org

Maji Yetu ni Jukumu Letu

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Ilmamusi Mukogodo Community Forest Association Growing Stronger!

On May 15th 2020, Ilmamusi hosted a team of Kenya Forest Service senior officials that included the Chairperson of KFS, Mr. Peter Kinyua; Chief Conservator of Forests in Kenya, Mr. Julius Kamau; and Ecosystem Conservator, Mr. Samuel Mukundi, among others. The team, along with FAO representatives met at Nadungoro area of Mukogodo Forest. Ilmamusi was supported and represented at the meeting by long-term partners Laikipia Forum, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Borana Conservancy, and Northern Rangelands Trust.

Community Forest Associations play a pivotal role in conservation and sustainable management of forest resources in Kenya. The CFAs’ function complements the work of Kenya Forest Service.

With all  the good intentions, many CFAs remain weak in the areas of governance and financing.  Ilmamusi is no different. Despite these challenges, they  have been actively engaged in conservation of Mukogodo Forest Reserve for a period spanning over 13 years.

During the meeting, the Ilmamusi Board members were taken through Community Forest Association structure and compliance requirements,  as prescribed in the Forest Management and Conservation Act 2016.

The Chief Conservator of Forests appreciated the work done by Ilmamusi CFA in conserving Mukogodo Forest, and encouraged them to continue working closely with the communities surrounding the forest in the four group ranches (Makurian, Il Ngwesi, Kurikuri and Lekurruki). Josyline Thambu of the Kenya Forest Service, was superb in her presentation.

Board members present had plenty of questions on some of the elements of the new Act given that Ilmamusi was established under the old Forest Act of 2005.

The team came up with a plan of action for Ilmamusi CFA to be fully compliant with Forest Conservation and Management Act of 2016, as they finalize the constitution review process currently ongoing under FAO funding.

The KFS team will be back in June to review the final draft of the Ilmamusi CFA constitution, and to endorse its adoption by group ranches.

Mukogodo is Laikipia’s largest national forest reserve, and is a designated water tower. It’s conservation is considered a priority for biodiversity, indigenous culture, and wildlife corridors.

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Oramat Lenaboisho: The Cooperative Society Advocates For A Commercial Community Approach To Livestock Management

Oramat Lenaboisho is a steadily growing community partnership society that continues to help its members realize the importance of owning well-managed livestock and the benefits that come with it.

Oramat  has been strongly advocating for the importance of rangelands management, rehabilitations and restorations and lobbies for the engagement of women and the youth in the ownership and management of the livestock husbandry -to – livestock  markets model.

Through these efforts, the Society has been able to acquire a membership of about 150 to help realize its goals. Our aim is to continue to build pastoralist communities that own and manage sustainable, community-owned,  and culturally appropriate projects.

The Society is working to scale up its operations . We work with members to help them shift their thinking to move from a prestigious way of keeping livestock to a more commercial approach that brings good returns. To achieve this, OLCS partnered with the county government and acquired a 2 million Kenyan shillings loan that has been invested in the purchase of cows. This amount was channeled towards buying steers, fattening them and then to sell them at a profit.

The continuous buying, fattening and selling of the steers works to ensure the viability of this cooperative society; and we have repaid the loan, and applied for a bigger one! Stay tuned for our PHASE 2 and stories to come?

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The Locust Invasion Persists

Locusts: “A swarm of just more than a third of a square mile can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people”

 The UN has warned that the devastation at the beginning of the year that occurred in more than 20 counties in Kenya – where over 70,000 hectares of vegetation were destroyed by the pest – could be multiplied by 20 times by a second wave brought about by recent rains which favor locust proliferation.

In Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms have formed and are starting to lay eggs in a new cycle of reproduction, representing an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods. Desert Locust are voracious eaters that target both food crops as well as the vegetation and pastures that pastoralists in East Africa depend on.

Right now, all of the swarms are impacting areas north of Laikipia.

Laikipia Landscape

Virginia Wahome, Director of Cooperation on Peace and Development, is leading the regional pest control campaign in Laikipia County.

“Laikipia recorded the first desert locust sightings in January, inside Il Ng’wesi Conservancy, and we have remained on the ground to track them since,” Ms. Wahome says.

Intensified aerial and ground surveil-lance have since traced the pests to Lolldaiga, Ole Naishu, Nanyuki, and Ngobit. In the west the desert locusts have invaded Mwenje, Njorua, Kinamba, Mahianyu, Oljabet, Rumuruti, Mutara, Kifuko among other areas.

The pest control campaign has bought together multi-agency teams from the FAO, national and county governments, the military, the National Youth Service, development partners and the private sector, including our Laikipia Farmers Association.

The surveillance and spraying operations for the region are organized from the Isiolo coordination center. So far, 240 thousand hectares of land in the affected countries have been treated with insecticides, and 740 personnel trained on deserts locust control since January 2020.

Ground monitoring teams conduct extensive surveys of terrain, collecting information on the state of the habitat and locust populations. This information is used for planning anti-locust controls and making decisions regarding preventive treatments. Reports are regularly filed using WhatsApp groups and GPS coordinates.


Threat to food security

Already 3.1 million Kenyans are projected to be highly food insecure between August and October 2020. Agro-pastoral communities in the North are particularly vulnerable and are just recovering from a long drought, followed by floods. So far, approximately 70,000 hectares of land have already been infested.

Role of climate change
Climate change has played a big role in creating a conducive environment for Desert Locusts to thrive. Last year, Kenya experienced a lot of rain, with a number of flooding in the last quarter of the year. This made the sandy soil in Arid and Semi-arid (ASAL) areas moist, which is perfect condition for the female migratory pests to lay their eggs.

In the last three years, there was an increase in the frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean that played a role in breeding this upsurge. In 2018, two cyclones dumped heavy rain on the uninhabited portion of the Arabian Peninsula known as “The Empty Quarter,” an area where locusts can breed and reproduce freely.

Use of pesticides
These migratory pests use wind to move and are able to cover up to 150 kilometers in one day. Aerial and ground spraying is ongoing, with plans to set up and equip four additional Desert Locust control centers.

Presently, the primary method of controlling Desert Locust swarms and hopper bands is with the use of organophosphate chemicals applied in small concentrated doses (referred to as ultra-low volume (ULV) formulation) by vehicle-mounted and aerial sprayers, and to a lesser extent, by knapsack and hand-held sprayers.


Organophosphate insecticides (such as diazinon) are one type of pesticide that works by damaging an enzyme in the body called acetylcholinesterase. This enzyme is critical for controlling nerve signals in the body. The damage to this enzyme kills pests and may cause unwanted side effects in exposed humans, livestock, and wildlife.

For more about Laikipia’s locust control efforts please see the County’s bulletin from May 2020.


Also see here about the locust hunters in Kenya

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