Laikipia Wildlife Forum staff take a pose during the Journey of Water campaign
World Wide Fund for Nature, Kenya Office (WWF-Kenya), in partnership with Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF), Water Resources Authority (WRA) , and other local partners, took the lead in a national water campaign known as the “Journey of Water Campaign: Ewaso Ng’iro North Edition.” The primary objective of this initiative was to raise public awareness about the profound significance of water as a valuable natural resource that is currently facing severe constraints. With a specific focus on the conservation of rivers from their source to our taps, the campaign emphasized the urgent need for collective action from communities, government agencies, and non-state actors to safeguard water sources and ensure improved access, quality, and quantity.
This notable event brought together over five hundred participants, predominantly community members from the area, who actively engaged in a three-day walk from June 6th to June 8th, 2023, along the River Ewaso Nyiro. The timing of this campaign was very significant as Kenya recently endured its most severe drought crisis in forty years, resulting in the depletion of major water sources. Over several months, hundreds of rivers, dried up, causing immense suffering and tension among millions of Kenyans who endured prolonged periods without food and water. Lake Olbolosat which is the only lake in the Ewaso Ng’iro Basin, also dried up. The devastating impact of this crisis underscored the interconnectedness of the water crisis and the climate crisis, with women being disproportionately affected.
The participants embarked on a journey through various routes, each revealing different challenges and issues related to water conservation. On the first day, the campaign was flagged off in the upper catchment in Timau River, Rugirando intake, where key issues such as the high number of intakes in the upper stream, encroachment on the catchment area by livestock, and soil erosion were witnessed.
On the same day, participants also had the opportunity to visit Ngusishi common intake, which served as an exemplary case of water resource management best practices.
The second day encompassed the Middle Catchment, which covered the Oljogi Conservancy Area, Naibor, and the confluence of Timau and Nanyuki River. This section raised concerns about high levels of land degradation leading to soil erosion, the proliferation of invasive species, and an increase in human-wildlife conflict, all exacerbated by the water crisis.
The third day entailed a procession in Isiolo town and later to Archers Post, with the primary focus being the issue of sand harvesting. This practice poses a significant challenge to the preservation of water resources in the area.
The three-day walk culminated in a town hall conference, bringing together stakeholders along the Timau, Nanyuki, and Isiolo rivers. These rivers serve as major tributaries to the 700km Ewaso Nyiro River, which eventually drains into the Lorian Swamp. During the conference, participants highlighted widespread issues such as over abstraction, illegal water connections for agricultural purposes, poor irrigation methods resulting in water wastage, and increased reliance on agrochemicals.
The conference yielded significant outcomes, with Laikipia, Isiolo and Nyeri counties making commitments to preserve the drying tributaries of the Ewaso Nyiro River. Following a compelling call to action, these counties recognized the extent of the threats facing water sources in the region. The Laikipia County government, represented by Leah Njeri,County Executive Committee Member for Water, Environment, and Natural Resources, expressed dedication to preserving the Nanyuki River over the next year. Isiolo County announced plans to sink ten boreholes annually, starting in the fiscal year 2024, to tap into groundwater and address the increasing demand for water. Nyeri County pledged to undertake riparian conservation and catchment rehabilitation for three rivers. Additionally, the county expressed plans to incorporate the Water Resource User Associations (WRUAs) into their budget, following a review of the Laikipia County Water Services Act, 2018.
The success of the campaign and the subsequent commitments from multiple counties underpinned the critical importance of joint water conservation. The efforts of the campaign instilled a sense of urgency and collective responsibility in preserving and protecting water sources, ultimately paving the way for a sustainable water future.