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Water Resources Authority commit to end illegal abstraction in Mutara River

Over the last two years, the Laikipia Cattle, water and wildlife project has facilitated a series of engagements with WRUA members and key stakeholders in Mutara and Suguroi Sub-Catchments of the Ewaso Basin and key water stakeholders.

In a recent meeting hosted by the project, the Water Resources Authority; Laikipia County banned the use of Lister machine pumps used to abstract water from Mutara River effective immediately. Additionally, any form of abstraction along the river without an official permit from the Authority shall be treated as an offence and anyone found guilty shall face dire consequences. Farmers have also been encouraged to reduce the amount of acres they dedicate to irrigation farming to at least 1 acre per acre to avoid excessive water use.

The ban which was declared by WRA Regional Director, Mr. Peter Ngubu at the stakeholder’s forum organized by the Laikipia Cattle, Water and Wildlife project in Mutara, is an effort to check the continuous decline of water flows along the river as a result of excessive abstraction by the farmers mainly for   intensive irrigation of high value crops.

A significant increase of acreage under irrigation and over-abstraction from users in the upper and middle zones of Mutara often results to conflicts between users in the upper and lower zones. The stake holder meeting held on 13th August 2019 had an attendance of 95 participants key deliberations agreed on were:

  • Reduction of  acreage under irrigation using river water to a minimum of I acre per household by January 2020
  • Mobilize resources for the construction of one common and self-regulatory intake in the sub catchment to facilitate equitable distribution of water and water use accountability.
  • WRA committed  to work  with local chiefs to curb illegal abstraction of water  effective from 13th August 2019 

Mr. Benard Mwangi,from Ol pejeta Conservancy and an implementer of the program, highlighted on the importance of tackling water issues collectively as a community with the support of stakeholders. He noted that Mutara was experiencing upstream downstream water conflicts due to an individualistic use of the river. “There is need for us all to understand that water does not belong to any of us, it is a natural resource that is a basic human right for all and that should be respected.” He said.

A number of farmers attending the meeting were visibly reluctant on the abstraction ban. “How do you come here, on our land and tell us to stop what has enabled us provide for our families and is our source of income? If that is the only way to solving this problem, then we would rather relocate.” Lamented Mr. John Waigumi who is also a member of Kiagoru community water project.

Ms. Halima Husein a downstream member was however quick to interject bringing out her frustrations on how she as a pastoralist is suffering as a result of lack of water. She especially urged upstream users to have a sense of humanity and allow water to reach those at the downstream of Mutara River.

Also noted as part of the problem was the high rate of land leasing to non-resident farmers by the locals. This farmers do not pay any form of fee for abstraction or to practice farming in the area and are as well not members of Mutara WRUA. It was highlighted that this had contributed to an increase of the amount of acres used for farming triggering excessive use of water for irrigation through illegal abstraction. During the area chiefs deliberation meeting it was noted that the farmers mainly come from Nakuru and Nyandarua. It came out that they usually lease over 5acres of land and usually target small scale farmers with very little capital.The chiefs uninamously agreed that one set of regulation that such farmers must abide by is to register all farmers leasing land to a WRUA. They must as well pay a monthly amount of not less than Ksh. 10,000.

This meeting was made successful as a result of a stream of consultative and stakeholders meetings led by the projects’ implementing team and all the relevant stakeholders. The meeting managed to have all implementing partners in attendance and other key stakeholders; Fauna and Flora International, Ol pejeta Conservancy and Laikipia Forum, the Water Resources Authority, community members from upper, mid and lower regions of Mutara and 7 area chiefs who unanimously agreed to fully implement the ban issued by WRA and at the same time urged all community members to live by the spirit of love and respect for each other to ensure security, cohesion and equal share and distribution  of the available resources.

The project will continue to work with WRA and other stakeholders to improve management of Mutara sub catchment

Laikipia Cattle, Water and Wildlife Project is funded by the Darwin Initiative through UK Government funding.

The projects implementing partners are Fauna and Flora International, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Laikipia Forum through Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP)

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