The Kenya Water Act 2016 provides for the establishment of Water Resource Users Associations (WRUA) for the collaborative management of water resources and to manage water use conflicts at sub catchment levels. The Water Act anticipates that WRUAs are supported to have sufficient capacity to play an effective role. The Act therefore places a responsibility on the Basin Water Resource Committees (BWRC) to ‘facilitate the establishment and operations of the water resource user associations’. To date approximately 400 WRUAs have been established. However, the number of well-performing WRUAs is really insignificant, and the major constraint to WRUA capacity is the lack of financial resources for basic operations. Thus, many of our user associations fail to meet their responsibilities.
The existing framework for a WRUA is developed is through the WRUA Development Cycle, which provides technical and financial guidelines for WRUA development and growth. This framework is project oriented, focusing on financing WRUAs to develop sub catchment management plans and its implementation. Sub catchment management plans, however, are hugely expensive to conduct.
Moreover, the existing gap in the Cycle is the lack of a business plan or financial sustainability strategy to support WRUA daily operations. WRUAs with better performance are financed by members to meet costs for operations. However, there exists no policy guidance on how this is approached, and how members leverage funding from either County or National government.
This is unfortunate, as we’ve found that the best performing WRUAs complement the functions of the regional and local Water Resources Authority, and the County Government. WRUA financing is a pervasive problem that needs addressing to achieve stronger WRUA institutions and sustainability.
The overall goal of the WGSP II program component implemented by MKEWP was to improve coordination of sector interventions within the basin. The goal was built on recognition that failure to establish/strengthen coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders’ results in weak institutions (WRUAs) and constant conflicts. MKEWP engaged its membership drawn from 15 WRUAs, 4 CSOs and 5 county governments (Laikipia, Isiolo, Nyeri, Meru and Nyandarua) to identify challenges WRUAs are facing, and existing opportunities for partnership with the county governments for their sustainability. This helped generate a memorandum to the County Executive and Assembly with recommendations and inputs from MKEWP members to inform policy and budget prioritization of the water Sector through the CIDPs.
Focus group discussions conducted at sub- catchment levels enabled the WRUAs to clearly articulate their need requirements to achieve SDG6. These were clearly spelt out in the public participation barazas of the CIDP drafting.
The County governments also realized the importance of working with WRUAs to achieve soil and water conservation. The counties realized that to have sustainable management of water resources they needed to support existing legal local institutions (WRUAs and CWPs).
Meru CEC for Water, Mr Muthethia took the initiative to lobby from his government financial support for WRUA activities. His directorate has secured Kes 3 million that will be used to support activities of tree planting, spring protection and pollution control by the WRUAs. This support will be disbursed on an annual basis. During a meeting held on 9th December 2022, Mr Mutethia pledged to support the WRUAs in Meru County to fundraise for infrastructure development (common intakes, fencing of water sources). He assured the WRUAs that activities in the first trench would start implementation on January of 2023. He lauded MKEWPs efforts of enhancing sectorial coordination among different stakeholders to accelerate integrated water resources management and water security in the basin.
MKEWP continues to support WRUAs in the Ewaso basin by enhancing their capacities to bridge the financial gap through various alternatives such as:-
- Responding to various calls for proposals
- Increasing the visibility of WRUAs activities among their membership thus securing more membership subscriptions
- Lobbying from the County and National governments to support the costs of operations of WRUAs
- Paying for ecosystems services by injecting funding that MKEWP has secured from various donors to support WRUAs and enhance their capacities in various areas.
- Coordinating efforts and interventions from other stakeholders in the basin to ensure no duplications and areas of synergy are created.