Lucy Chepkosgei Chepkochei via web
THE LAKE NAIVASHA BASIN, KENYA
The Lake Naivasha Basin is a spectacle that presents rare ecosystem, biodiversity and outstanding physical features within the Great Rift Valley. It lies in the north west of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi and crosses 3 counties namely Nyandarua, Narok and Nakuru. From the majestic Mt. Longonot, the bold Aberdare Ranges, the exotic Hell’s Gate and the breath taking Lake Naivasha which is a designated wetland of international importance, the basin is home to numerous flora and fauna creating a spectacular attraction the basins. The Basin’s potential is unsurpassed! Large and small-scale farming, fisheries, pastoralism, geothermal power production, tourism as well as an ever-growing urban development, make it a lucrative economic hub. The Lake Naivasha Basin is of huge socio-economic and environmental significance, not only for its direct population, but also for the country and the entire region. The horticulture industry is a main economic activity in the Lake basin. The flori and horticulture sector has employed more than 50,000 people directly and thousands more indirectly.
With the opportunities, come the challenges. The Lake Naivasha eco-system’s health is getting more and more pressure due to population increase, economic growth, high demand for agricultural land and poor agricultural and land tenure practices. The high population increase has led to unplanned informal settlements and a myriad of environmental challenges. Poor solid waste management and inadequate effluent treatment systems place strain on the population. Man-made dumpsites are a common sight. Overflows and toxins find their way into water sources within the vicinity, especially during the rainy season. Pollution, deforestation, encroachment, erosion, over abstraction and climate change negatively impact the water quality and quantity, leading to loss of biodiversity, low water levels, competition and conflicts amongst water users. The economic productivity is also negatively affected. An example is River Karati, which is an all season flowing river supporting over 100, 000 people along its banks. Extreme upstream activities such as quarry mining have changed its flows, forcing users to rely on water boreholes. The high fluoride levels in the water table pose a danger to the consumers. At the turn of the new millennium, the great basin began losing its glory. Was this the beginning of the end of this world class Lake Basin?
SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE FAST!
The government of Kenya established the IMARISHA Naivasha Board through a gazette notice to coordinate restoration, rehabilitation and develop a sustainable development action plan through various stakeholders. A key partner is the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA); a government parastatal charged with all regulatory aspects in water resources management. In addition, Water Resources Users Associations (WRUAS) were formed as a way of involving communities in water resources management and conservation efforts. Together with the German International Cooperation GIZ, WRMA and the 12 Water Resources Users Associations in the basin, IMARISHA is implementing the IMARISHA Water Stewardship Project. Funded by the governments of Germany, the United Kingdom, Kenya as well as several retailers from the UK, the water stewardship programme aims to restore the vitality of the eco-system and sustain its full potential through public, private partnerships. The 12 WRUAs proposed activities to improve soil and water access as well as protection of the environment.
IMARISHA WATER STEWARDSHIP PROJECT
The initiatives included the protection and rehabilitation of water resources and dams. Initially, uncontrolled trespass caused several conflicts, especially during dry spells. Fencing of water sources and construction of troughs and water points were implemented. For instance, after Githunguri Spring was fenced, both livestock and residents now have better access to water points, separately and more sufficiently.
Controlled access to water sources and construction of utilities has also led to sufficient water quantities and quality as well as significantly reducing livestock- human conflicts. Matundura and Muthaithe dams have similarly been scheduled for rehabilitation. For years, farmers have benefited from the high water levels, until recently when the respective dam walls were damaged due to inappropriate construction designs.
The IMARISHA Water Stewardship project has implemented rainwater-harvesting facilities in several schools and a dispensary. Mwangaza Primary School has now left behind a past of disease outbreaks and poor academic performance, caused by water challenges. Leleshwa dispensary recently benefitted from the same technology, significantly enhancing its hygiene and sanitation levels.
The IMARISHA Water Stewardship Project seeks to provide water from a source point to a wider population. Gathima Spring in Kamore area is one such mapped project. In more arid areas such as Enaiborr Ajijik, the situation is direr. It becomes even more unbearable to the over 100, 000 people who depend on pastoralism as their major source of livelihood.
The IMARISHA Water Stewardship Project through Mariba WRUA is fitting pipes to distribute water through gravity to a local school and dispensary, 8km from the only borehole water source in the area. The Imarisha Water Stewardship Project through the use of ‘wise use’ principles has also embarked to restore Lake Naivasha environment to its former glory. One measure is the establishment of several tree nurseries in the basin has necessitated the distribution of seedlings to farmers, thus encouraging restoration and agro-forestry practices.
The Engineer tree nursery is one such nursery where several tree species are propagated, nurtured and sold to farmers. Upon maturity, the trees can be harvested and sold for economic gain. Mkungi Kitiri WRUA has restored riparian stretches along streams and rivers that were severely degraded due to encroachment. Through good farming practices, farmers considerably contribute to the conservation of the catchment. Notable achievements include less pollution from agro-chemicals, increase in soil humidity, fertility, reduction in soil erosion and siltation. In a demonstration farm, farmers learn to incorporate adapted technology in their daily practices.
With widespread loose volcanic soils especially in the lower basin, Deep gullies’ are frequent, with the large soil movements ending up as deposits in rivers or the lake. The vegetation cover is being increased and gabions are being built to control the rainwater runoff and reduce heavy erosion.
Rehabilitation and long term conservation of the eco-system, its natural resources and therefore its resilience to the negative impacts of climate change, is crucial for the sustainability of the economy and quality of life of its populations.
Partnerships like the one created by the IMARISHA Water Stewardship Program, where the government, the private sector and the communities come together, proves that together, we can manage natural resources; ensure sustainable development and equitable allocation of the resources.
MUCH MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE!
Much has been done, thanks to The IMARISHA Water Stewardship Project. Yet, much more needs to be done.