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Isiolo Town, Kenya - In June 2023, our Journey of Water campaign for Ewaso Nyiro River culminated in a stakeholders’ conference at the El-Boran hotel in Isiolo County. This gathering resulted in powerful commitments to tackle some of the most pressing issues, with a strong focus on water over-abstraction and unsustainable agricultural practices.
The Journey of Water Campaign, a WWF-Kenya annual initiative for awareness raising on collective action for water, kicked off at the pristine source of River Ewaso Nyiro in Timau, Meru County.
Rising from central Kenya highlands in Timau at the foot of Mt. Kenya, Ewaso Nyiro River and its 40 tributaries serve over 4 million people, wildlife in Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Spring National Reserves-, dozens of small and large horticultural farms, ranches, hotels and smallholder farmers before discharging into the Lorian Swamp, a wetland used by pastoralists in northeastern Kenya.
The Ewaso Nyiro River watershed stretches across six counties - Nyandarua, Laikipia, Samburu, Laikipia, Meru and Isiolo.
The campaign, attended by more than 600 people and key players from various sectors, birthed significant commitments and collaborations aimed at addressing pressing water-related issues across the Ewaso Nyiro River Basin, which is a largely arid and semi-arid region.
Besides, recommendations to address the over-abstraction of water for agricultural purposes, farming in riparian areas and adoption of poor irrigation methods, participants proposed the enhancement of stakeholder collaborations for a more coordinated approach to integrated water resource management and the need to involve the political class to provide solutions to sustainable water resource management, especially knowledge sharing and capacity building.
Further, participants demanded stakeholders address the issue of pollution emanating from urban areas and the use of agrichemicals that seep into water sources. They called for water companies to become key players in the conservation of water sources. In addition, participants also called for the involvement of pastoralists to participate in the next Journey of Water campaign.
The participants also recommended the zonation of forest reserves to regulate grazing areas, encouraged youth participation in water resource management, the establishment of Water Resource Users Associations in regions where they are not present and the adoption of sustainable climate change adaptation for communities through water harvesting and storage for use during the dry season.
Following the deliberations and recommendations, several key stakeholders made commitments to address some of the most pressing issues.
To tackle the issue of overgrazing, the Kenya National Water Resource Users Association (KeNAWRUA) pledged to collaborate with the Kenya Forest Service on the zonation of forest reserves to allow for forest regeneration. If done, this has the potential to rejuvenate key water sources in the Ewaso Nyiro River Basin.
Laikipia County Government, represented in the conference by Ms Leah Njeri, the County Executive Committee Member for Water & Natural Resources, pledged to prioritize the conservation of the Nanyuki River, a key tributary of the River Ewaso Nyiro.
“We are going to pick a river, most likely Nanyuki River, and focus our resources and conserve our water sources. We will have another stakeholders’ forum,” said Ms Njeri.
Isiolo County, which borders Laikipia County to the northeast, pledged to drill 10 boreholes every year beginning the Financial Year 2024.
“Our resources are stretched. We have a plan for a dam to supply the emerging population. Let’s use water wisely and efficiently,” said Mr Godana Dida, the Isiolo County Chief Officer for Water and Sanitation.
The Nyeri County Government, which was represented by Ms Jeniffer Mugi, the Chief Officer for Water, Irrigation and Climate Change, promised to undertake riparian conservation and catchment rehabilitation for Rivers Chania, Naromoru and Nairobi.
“We’ll also be incorporating the Water Resources Users Association into our budget because we reviewed the County Water Act,” said Ms Mugi.