Imarisha’s Strategy to Build Effective Relationships in LNB

Michael Onyango, the lead consultant for the firm that is developing Imarisha Naivasha’s communication strategy, expounds a point during a consultative workshop held on March 17, 2015 between the consultants and stakeholders organized and facilitated by Imarisha.

Development of Imarisha Naivasha​’s communication strategy entered the homestretch Tuesday with the successful staging of a consultative workshop between stakeholders, Imarisha and the consultants who are developing the strategy.

The consultative workshop, held at the Pyramid Restaurant in Naivasha on March 17, heralded the start of the concluding stages of a process that is set to overhaul Imarisha’s communications outlook going forward.

The organization hopes that this document will, in a big way, help in the consolidation of its position as the oversight and coordination agency in all matters conservation within a basin that is dotted with many different players with diverse interests and goals.

Imarisha Naivasha CEO, Kamau Mbogo, addresses participants during the consultative meeting.

The communication strategy has been under development since last year and the concluding stages have involved acquiring input from stakeholders on what an ideal communications outlook would be like for the organization, which has been mandated to oversee and coordinate conservation activities within the Lake Naivasha Basin.

Imarisha Naivasha’s communications strategy seeks to respond to the need to have a vibrant platform within which all stakeholders within the basin may share and learn from one another on the challenges, opportunities, success stories, lessons learnt and knowledge acquired through their diverse day-to-day interactions with different elements that make up the Lake Naivasha Basin landscape.

On March 17, the experts who are developing this strategy for Imarisha invited all stakeholders to a consultative meeting whose main objective was to establish the communication needs of different stakeholders that would inform Imarisha’s messages and platforms as the implementation stage goes underway. A comprehensive communications needs assessment instrument was developed and administered during the workshop, where crucial areas such as messaging, platforms and timing were explored.

Sylvester Mutune (in dark suit) is one of the consultants who are developing a communication strategy for Imarisha. Here, the communications expert is seen conferring with participants during a group breakout session.

Weaknesses and shortcomings within Imarisha’s current communications were identified and recommendations made by stakeholders on how to overcome them. The consultants, Micheal Onyango and Sylvester Mutune, duly made notes of these recommendations and promised to include them where necessary in the final document, which they promised would be ready soon.

Imarisha CEO, Kamau Mbogo, lauded the one-on-one meeting as sure to set the stage for an overhaul of Imarisha’s current communications tools and methods to enhance relationships with both external and internal audiences. Imarisha is mandated to oversee and coordinate conservation activities within the Lake Naivasha basin.

Imarisha is seeking to consolidate its presence within the basin as an oversight and coordination agency in a bid to reverse the massive degradation of the wetland, which is one of Kenya’s five Ramsar sites (wetlands of international significance).

Help Wanted Urgently: A Global Conservation Warrior

Image of a hand cupping the earth. Conservation will play a big role in helping communities to improve their climate change adaptability.

We need to upscale global conservation efforts fast and urgently. The reasons for this are all around us, though they may not always be apparent to all of us all the time.

But whenever they are pointed out, it is often possible to derive unique – and sometimes horrifying – insights into the state of the earth in an age of global consumerism sans the presence of mind to at least protect the source of the earth’s bounty from which we derive so much capitalist pleasure.

A cursory look at local and international media today should jolt the bourgeoisie to a rude awakening – the natural bounty that we have always taken for granted is depleting at an alarming rate.

The fates of millions of people across the globe hang in the balance in the face of a consumer culture that has always tended to overate earth’s capacity to support our massive appetites.

Today’s Daily Nation (Thursday, February 26, 2015) has carried an editorial that criticizes officialdom’s attitude towards reports that close to 2 million people spread across 26 counties are facing acute hunger.

On page 32, the same paper has carried a story on how Botswana is facing a looming shortage of white maize, a staple food, after persistent drought conditions in South Africa, from where it procures 95 per cent of the crop, led to massive crop failure.

These news items are related. They point to adverse climatic patterns affecting the availability of food. Indeed, environmentalist Lester Brown warns in this article in The Guardian that the world faces the greatest food crisis in recent times owing to poor farming practices pushed in part by a growing demand.

Brown offers, by way of example, the Sahel region in Africa and China as two regions where dust bowls are currently forming at an alarming rate, carting away top soils and creating vast areas of unproductive land where neither farming nor rearing of livestock can take place.

Millions of people that live in these areas are already facing hunger and can only feed themselves for five days a week at best.

Brown is a Rutgers University alumnus and an agricultural expert. His career spanning over 50 years has seen him work in the US government and found two thinktanks, the Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute.

His insightful analyses of environmental impacts on food security all over the world has enabled him to have the ear of the world’s top leaders on agricultural matters and his advice has often formed the bedrock of agricultural policies in many countries globally.

According to the same article, Brown notes that global food prices have doubled over the last twenty years, entrenching global poverty in significant ways. He attributes this to overstretching of earth’s capacity to cater to food production.

While the Daily Nation rightly notes that there is urgent need to transform the way agriculture is practiced in this country i.e. mechanize it and use technology to rely less on rain-fed agriculture, a pertinent point is missed in this – make the country more climate change adaptable.

The earth, the sun and the moon

Much of the conservation work we do revolves around improving the capacities of local communities to cope with the adverse effects of climate change.

To make the world more resilient to climate change, we need to increase its capacity to weather climatic shocks and, for that, we all need to become conservation warriors in our own small ways.

Also writing in the Guardian, conservationist Arun Krishnamurthy calls for a bold new world where innovativeness can replace unthinking consumerism.

“We live in a human-centric society where all of nature’s resources are considered for our consumption only. With little to no understanding of the need to conserve what is left, we are blindly running a race where we’ll only end up exhausted, forgetting that it’s a marathon with many more laps to come.”

Krishnamurthy says that there should be a paradigm shift in the way modern humans relate to the environment: from one where we view the environment as a collective property that we can use as we see fit to satiate our materialistic thirst, to one where we see it as a gift from nature that we should cherish and conserve for all future humans that will walk the face of the earth.

Change in mindset requires a lot of awareness creation and that is where technology comes into play. Conservationists should expand the discussion about the environment into more social, academic, and political circles using various technological platforms.

More importantly, as Krishnamurthy eloquently points out, we need to take the discussion back to our homes, ensuring that our children grow up knowing as much about the value of the natural environment as that of the latest Xbox.

That way, we shall nurture the next generation of warriors to take the battle for the environment into the next century.

A warrior in the Middle Ages. In the same way that he is facing terrifying beings, the modern conservation warriors must be prepared for enormous challenges in their quest to ensure a better environment for all.

Population Increase Piles Pressure on LNB Natural Resources

NEMA’s compliance and enforcement officer for Naivasha and Gilgil Sub-Counties, Mrs. Kihara, says humans have encroached on wildlife habitation within the Lake Naivasha Basin due to overpopulation.

Population pressure poses the greatest challenge to sustainable development within the Lake Naivasha Basin, environmentalists have said.

According to Imarisha Naivasha CEO, Kamau Mbogo, massive increase of human population over the years has led to sizable loss of biodiversity and significantly shrunk the available natural resource base, thereby endangering the lives of humans, livestock and wildlife.

“The whole landscape depends on water from the two perennial rivers, Malewa and Karati, and Lake Naivasha. Whenever these water sources deplete, there is often chaos,” he said.

“The massive increase in population means that there is even greater stress placed on these natural resources than before. So, our immediate challenge, to which we have so far not found an adequate answer, is to find a way to balance supply against increasing demand.”

He noted, however, that as a tentative answer, Imarisha and other partners had developed a water abstraction system where, if the lake water levels fell beyond certain points, users all over the basin would be alerted to reduce their water use levels.

This system guaranteed an equitable water sharing plan that significantly reduced the probability of conflict arising from water use.

His sentiments were supported by the National Environmental Management Authority compliance officer in charge of Naivasha and Gilgil Sub-Counties, Mrs. Kihara, who said that the Zebras that used to roam along the Naivasha-Nairobi highway and which were always visible to travelers had disappeared.

“As NEMA, we are facing the challenge of how to manage the progressive encroachment of humans on wildlife habitation. People are using erstwhile wildlife areas for human habitation, creating an avenue for human-wildlife conflict. In many cases, the animals simply go away,” she said.

Some of the students from the University of Tokyo’s Graduate Programme in Sustainable Sciences listen to presentations at the WRMA boardroom.

The two officials made the remarks during a visit by a delegation of students from the University of Tokyo in Japan, who were in town to learn more about what Kenyan institutions were doing with regard to sustainable development in the face of expanding human settlements.

The visitors were hosted at the WRMA boardroom.

The students, from the University’s Graduate Programme in Sustainable Science, were accompanied by their tutors as well as academics from the University of Nairobi’s Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies.

Mbogo had been invited to give a talk on the Lake Naivasha Basin and the challenges and opportunities presented by human population growth within the Basin on sustainable development.

Mrs. Kihara’s presentation focused on enforcement and compliance with regard to environmental regulations in Naivasha.

Imarisha CEO, Kamau Mbogo makes his presentation at the WRMA boardroom.

Mbogo cited population pressure challenges as two-pronged: one, he cited the increase that came about as a result of human reproductive activities and, secondly, the migratory population that was caused by people travelling from other parts of the country to settle in Naivasha.

“Most of them come from other towns and rural areas to settle in Naivasha to earn a living, either in the flower farms, in the hospitality industry, or other sectors of the local economy,” he said.

As a result, Mbogo noted that, whereas just two decades ago the total population of the entire basin was around 200,000 people, “currently, more than 700,000 people live within the Lake Naivasha Basin.”

Of the 700,000 people living within the Basin, 250,000 of them live in close clusters around the lake itself, crammed in the seven major settlements that have sprung up around the country’s largest fresh water lake, without even the benefit of a proper sanitation system.

“Most of the seven informal settlements around Lake Naivasha are not connected to the central sewer system.  They depend on septic tanks which are then emptied by lorries and transported to the central sewer system in Naivasha,” he said.

And in Naivasha town, Mbogo added, only 30 per cent of the population was connected to the central sewer system with the rest having to make do with pit latrines and other unhygienic methods of waste management.

“The central sewer system was originally supposed to cater to a population of 30,000 people but now serves over 200,000 people. This means that the system is heavily stressed by all the extra people that are in the town,” he lamented.

More importantly, this means that the authorities have not been able to match the physical infrastructure in the town with the massive population increase. And, going forward, things may only get worse if available statistics pointing to rising urbanization trends are anything to go by.

Mrs. Kihara decried the poor enforcement of Environmental Impact Assessment reports on the dire lack of personnel at the authority.

“Lack of human resource capacity has really hampered enforcement and compliance of the EIAs. It is not humanely possible to be everywhere at the same time and monitor if people are adhering to the standards set in their EIAs while implementing their projects,” she said.

“EIAs are often well-written, but they are seldom ever implemented to the letter.”

University of Tokyo graduate students, dons from the University of Nairobi’s Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies, WRMA and Imarisha Naivasha officials pose for a group photo outside the WRMA Naivasha office during the UoT grad students official visit to Naivasha.
Imarisha CEO, Kamau Mbogo with some of the students and other officials pose for a group photo outside NEMA offices in Naivasha.

MoU Deal a No-Show as WRMA and WRUAs fail to agree – yet again…

Participants at the WRMA/WRUA Agency Consultative Meeting at KALRO Naivasha.

The anticipated signing of an agreement between Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) and the Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA) came a cropper after both sides failed to agree on the modalities of payment that the water regulator would adopt in its new relationship with the community based organizations.

A consultative meeting held at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in Naivasha today was expected to herald the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between WRMA and the two WRUAs, but instead ended up being a tussle for monies emanating from meter readings.

WRMA had proposed an agency model for the WRUAs where the latter would act as agents for the former and legally handle specific tasks as would be agreed upon and according to each WRUA’s institutional capacity.

The WRUAs seemed agreeable to the idea and even proposed two of them to spearhead the project on pilot basis.

Mukungi Kitiri and LaNa WRUAs were chosen to pilot the project which would then be rolled out among other WRUAS within the Lake Naivasha Basin, and countrywide, depending on the success rate.

The meeting came to a head during plenary when WRMA, the hosts, faced by adamant demands for more equitable sharing of the meter incomes, stuck to their guns insisting that what they were paying was merely a token and that WRUAs could not expect to be paid for what was essentially voluntary community work.

Upper Turasha WRUA chairman, Paul Weru, started the fireworks when he stood to speak after Eng. Simon Wang’ombe had made a proposal during his presentation that offered a honoraria payment of KShs.1,000 to community meter readers, who essentially belong to the WRUAs.

“The KShs.1,000 payment to meter readers is not enough. In some of the WRUAs, meter reading is currently not going on because the people see the money as too little to be worthy the task. We want it increased,” Weru said.

John Ole Karia, Marmanet WRUA chairman, supported this and further proposed the figure to be pegged at a figure that was no less than the minimum wage, which comes to roughly KShs.13,000.

WRMA Technical Manager, Eng. Kinyua, seemed outraged that the issue of payment was becoming such a hot potato especially as WRMA was keen to have the deal sealed.

“Meter reading is not a full-time job and that is why we are calling for honoraria payment,” he said. But as WRMA officials insisted that WRUAs could not be paid for doing something that they should be doing anyway, other participants weighed in with their support for the WRUAs.

Finlay’s Richard Fox, who also happens to be the Imarisha Naivasha Board chairman, urged the water regulator to consider funding WRUAs and building their capacity as an investment rather than a cost because it would also benefit WRMA if WRUAs were able to increase revenue collection.

“Naivasha has the potential to generate up to KShs.100 million in remittances for WRMA from water abstractors, which it is not currently achieving due to illegal abstractions. WRUAs can better be able to do this because they are constantly on the ground to do follow-up,” he said.

“If you can take this KShs.100 million and say that you are going to give 10 per cent to WRUAs, an equivalent of KShs.10 million, then this would effectively build their capacity and enable them to accomplish much of the conservation tasks that they should be doing,” Fox added.

This position was supported by Word Wide Fund for Nature’s Sunita Sakar, who also urged WRMA to view WRUAs as an investment in future sustainability of water use in the country.

Also weighing in on the debate was GIZ’s Ann Marie Ran, who suggested that WRMA officials consider the value lost through incorrect meter readings as the basis for a cost benefit analysis that would provide the business case for paying WRUAs more equitably.

Faced with this barrage, WRMA officials seemed to see-saw, at one time backtracking on their initian proposal and at another insisting that, as an institution, WRMA was not into profiteering per se and could therefore not delve into business issues such as bottomlines and value analysis based on strictly monetary terms.

WRMA Technical Manager, Eng. Kinyua, addresses participants.
LANA WRUA chairman, Enoch Kimita, makes his opening remarks.
Participants are all ears during the meeting.

With battle lines drawn and both groups dug deep into their trenches, it was suggested that WRUAs discuss fresh proposals over lunch and present them to WRMA officials who would then forward them to the CEO and the Board in Nairobi after which they would revert with an answer.

After the lunch break, LANA WRUA chairman, Enoch Kimita, announced that the WRUAs had reached an agreement: “We would like to announce that, in addition to the two tasks proposed, we be added two more including help enforce compliance on payments for water use. We would also like meter readers to be paid KShs.200 per day and WRUAs get 20 per cent of the value of the meter readings.”

It was agreed that these proposals would be forwarded to the WRMA top management for consideration and another meeting be held on May 13 to present the way forward.

The meeting came to a close, once again for the umpteenth time, without reasonable agreements on payments and without signing of the MoU. This deal has been on the cards for the last five years.

Phase Two of Imarisha Water Stewardship Project Good to Go with KShs.20 M Boost

Imarisha Water Stewardship Project partners meeting at the Imarisha boardroom.

Plans to roll out the second phase of the Imarisha Water Stewardship Project are at an advanced stage, with the MoU setting the terms of reference for all partners involved to be signed soon.

Some KShs.20 million has been set aside for the project. Imarisha Naivasha and the German international development agency GIZ have each committed KShs.10 million towards the water stewardship project.

More funds are, however, still being sought to bankroll the project, with high indications that a deal with UK retailer Marks and Spencer could be concluded soon.

According to GIZ coordinating officer, Ann Marie Ran, other institutions working within the Lake Naivasha Basin and contributing in one way or another to the water stewardship project will also be expected to sign the MoU.

“We expect all our partners to commit themselves to the Memorandum of Understanding, whether they are contributing in cash or in kind,” Ann Marie said.

She cited the organizations set to sign the MoU as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), Imarisha Naivasha, Umbrella Water Resource Users Association (Umbrella WRUA) and GIZ. These details were revealed during the Imarisha Water Stewardship Coordination Meeting held at the Imarisha boardroom today.

Officials from the various institutions who attended the meeting included Imarisha CEO, Kamau Mbogo, the GIZ project manager at Imarisha, James Chomba, Enoch Okemwa from WRMA, junior project advisor at GIZ, Japheth Koros, Ann Marie Ran (GIZ), IWaSP/GIZ consultant Jana Ongoma Anguka, Umbrella WRUA desk officer Susan Muthoni, and Carol Mwongeli from Imarisha.

During the meeting, partners were updated on the progress of the projects that were rolled out in phase one of the water stewardship project. Most of these projects have been completed, while a few are in the concluding stages.

James Chomba, who is the project manager in charge of these projects, outlined some of the milestones that partners have achieved so far in implementing the program.

In Upper Gilgil WRUA, he said, land has been leased for 10 years to facilitate the establishment of a tree nursery to serve farmers in the area. Some 60,000 seedlings have been planted so far and the project is proceeding very well.

The riparian land rehabilitation program established in Upper Turasha WRUA is also progressing well, with James reporting that 17,000 seedlings have been planted within the riparian land. Farmers are being given cash incentives to plant trees on their farms as well as being provided with seedlings.

“We have taken a mini-TIST approach with the Upper Turasha project where we give farmers seedlings and pay then KShs.3 per seedling planted. Six months later, we give them another KShs.3 for every seedlings that they have managed to care for,” James explained.

The International Small Group Tree Planting Project (TIST) empowers Small Groups of subsistence farmers in countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and India to reverse the devastating effects of deforestation, drought, and famine according to their website. TIST provides almost similar incentives to farmers in their quest to achieve this goal.

Imarisha Naivasha CEO, Kamau Mbogo, addresses partners during the coordination meeting.

Imarisha CEO Kamau Mbogo justifies the incentive method on grounds that it will help roll out community re-afforestation programs much faster: “We got farmers in groups and decided that, instead of paying youth groups to do the tree-planting on riparian land, we would pay farmers to plant trees on their own farms. We pay the farmers because they are better able to look after the trees.”

The farmers plant indigenous trees on riparian land, then use exotic trees to ring the entire plantation with a live fence.

Enoch Okemwa’s presentation focused on how WRMA was helping nine WRUAs with a review of their constitutions to strengthen governance of the community based organizations.

He noted that WRUAs had serious leadership and integrity issues, with almost all of them involved in internecine conflict.

“We are having a big problem with the WRUAs in terms of internal governance. We would like to strengthen them in order to help them towards a path of sustainable growth,” Enoch said.

He noted that the WWF had developed a comprehensive assessment tool that would help in identifying the governance shortfalls within the WRUAs and nip in the bud emerging challenges that could lead to conflict.

This was revealed as it emerged that one of the WRUAs had unconstitutionally kicked out its chairman as internal wrangles wracked the leadership.

Mbogo noted that it was important to appreciate the conflict as a sign of growth and maturity of the WRUAs and not view conflict as necessarily bad: “Conflict in WRUAs means that people have started to appreciate the value of these organizations in local communities. Communities are starting to demand greater accountability from their leaders.”

He added that the main duty of the partners was to manage emerging conflicts in a manner that helped WRUAs grow themselves in the proper way.

WWF, represented by Nancy Njenga, focused on alternative energy solutions as a way of stemming the spiraling rate of deforestation in the Basin.

Their energy saving cooking stoves, Nancy noted, had considerably made life easier for rural women within the Basin. Other alternative energy methods the organization was exploring include fireless cooking.

The partners were also introduced to GIZ/IWaSP consultant, Jana (pronounced Yana). She was born in Germany to a Kenyan father and German mother, and is in the country specifically to help Imarisha with private sector mobilization and will develop a strategy for stakeholder engagement for Imarisha.

GIZ officials Jana Ongoma Anguka (Right), Ann Marie Ran (Center) and Japheth Koros (Left) follow proceedings during the Imarisha Water Stewardship Coordination Meeting.

Reclaiming the Lake Naivasha landscape one acre at a time

Imarisha has funded GEPA’s model farm

Across the dusty and semi arid expanse of Lake Naivasha Basin’s lower catchment, a new eco-friendly agriculture movement is taking shape, promising to gradually change the entire landscape one acre at a time.

Despite the dryness of the land, farmers here have adopted new farming techniques that will not only guarantee them improved harvests but also transform the environment in a good way.

In Gilgil for instance, a group of 32 farmers are being trained on sustainable eco-agriculture practices on a 10 acre model farm established for that purpose with the support of Imarisha Naivasha and the Gilgil Environmental Protection and Advocacy Project (GEPA).

The Mbegi Weru farmers group has a vision for their landscape. Their vision is to turn the dry semi arid land into a lush verdant land with enough food for humans and animals.

Weru is Kikuyu for a desert, and the dry, dusty plains that the farmers inhabit have traditionally been unsuitable for any meaningful form of agriculture apart from nomadic pastoralism.

But with the Dry Land Integrated Farming Project, the eco-friendly model farm, Mbegi Weru farmers are now learning important agricultural practices that are both suitable for arid areas and will protect the environment and biodiversity.

The project was started in 2013 and boasts of a greenhouse, a water pan that stores surface water run-off and is used both for irrigation and fish farming built at a cost of KShs.200,000 and a model farmhouse with an energy-saving cooking stove that uses only two pieces of firewood.

The model farm also features an afforestation project that is aimed at greening the area and rehabilitating the dry and harsh environment.

Patrick Wamiti, GEPA project leader
26 year old George Wangai, who is a member of Mbegi Weru Farmers Group, explains the working of an energy saving cooking stove that he helps the farmers build in their homes as part of the project. This stove is part of the demonstration farm.

According to Patrick Wamiti, the GEPA project leader, the model farm has been a major inspiration to locals to replicate the farming practices in their own farms.

“Imarisha has enabled us to achieve a lot through this project and particularly in the area of climate change adaptation,” says Wamiti.

The afforestation project has been extended to the surrounding community and each individual farmer is being encouraged to plant some trees on their farms.

“We provide the seedlings and encourage the farmers to come forward and obtain them from us. Imarisha has been very instrumental in funding the cost of the seedlings,” says Wamiti.

Already, there is evidence that the approach is working. A visit to one of the Mbegi Weru farmers, James Njuguna, reveals a well managed and incredibly green landscape that is at odds with the surrounding brown expanse.

Njuguna has lived in the area for the last 30 years, and says that the last three years has seen a major change in harvests because, while he previously relied on seasonal and often unreliable rainfall to do his farming, he now irrigates his land.

The trees and lush greenery on Njuguna’s three acre farm contrasts sharply with the brown drabness of the surrounding land and there is a gush of fresh air and refreshing coolness brought about by the tree shades.

“There is a lot of change, not just on my farm but also in the neighbours as well. We are more water sufficient because of the water pans and we are better at collecting and storing rain water for the dry spells,” he says, beaming with satisfaction.

Across the Basin on the other side of Lake Naivasha, the Moi South Lake Road tarmac tapers off at Kamere, with its thriving fishing community, and the winding dirt roads lead you through billowing dust to Ndabibi township, which is really a tiny shopping center that serves small villages tucked deep into the expansive sprawl of dust across the sun-baked land.

Like Gilgil, Ndabibi is very dry, hot and dusty. But it is here that another agricultural marvel is to be found.

The Ndabibi Environmental Conservation Center is a farm that trains other farmers on smart eco-friendly farming practices.

Josphat Macharia

Established by Josphat Macharia, the Center hosts up to 12 student farmers for a period of six days each, which is the duration that the training takes.

Josphat developed the training manual himself and has carried out similar trainings in the US and the UK upon request.

“This farm is self-sufficient, from the water we use to the energy we use for cooking. Everything is produced here, and even the waste that is generated is returned for use back in the farm in one way or another – either as manure or a source of energy,” Josphat says.

Adding that his philosophy is that what comes from the farm must go back into the farm, Josphat maintains that he finds use for everything – even the cow dung is used to manufacture biogas, which he uses for cooking thus enabling him not to cut down trees for firewood.

When it rains, Josphat traps rainwater and stores it in five enormous tanks that can serve him up to a whole year when full without replenishing. This is the water he uses for domestic purposes and to irrigate his farm.

He has 150 goats and sheep and eight cows as well as 20 beehives. He says that he aims to increase the beehives to 50 by the end of the year.

“Each beehive produces up to 14 kilogrammes of honey per year and I sell each kilogramme at KShs.1000. That is an income of KShs.280,000 per year from the bees only,” he says.

Josphat’s farmhouse in which he conducts training on eco-friendly agriculture.

Josphat explains that he charges KShs.3,400 per student per day. The charges include accommodation and meals.

“I only accept training requests from people as groups, not singly. The group must comprise of between 10 to 12 people,” he says.

The innovative farmer enjoys a cordial working relationship with Imarisha, which has sponsored several trainees at the Center. He also receives funding for tree-planting activities on the farm from the organization.

“With Imarisha’s help, I have trained farmers from eight Water Resource Users Associations from the Basin. I still have four more to go to complete the 12 WRUAs in the Lake Naivasha Basin,” he says.

Josphat in his kraal.

With his vivacity and passion at sharing his deep knowledge in eco-friendly agriculture with communities around him, Josphat is indeed a blessing to the whole landscape.

With such initiatives and many more developing at a frenetic pace across the Basin, the goal to reclaim the Lake Naivasha landscape remains well in sight.

Pay a visit to L. Naivasha or L. Nakuru this weekend…and appreciate the value of wetlands

A hippo yawns in L. Naivasha

So next Monday, February 2, is World Wetlands Day.

Who cares, you ask? Well, I was browsing the net looking for information on Lake Naivasha when I unexpectedly bumped into this web log, kind of like an online journal detailing the experiences of an elderly South African couple called John and Arlene and whose avowed mission is to travel from Cape to Cairo – get this…on a motorcycle!

As if the fete weren’t amazing enough for an elderly couple, the chronicles of their travels make for mind-blowing reading. Titled “Africa on a Wing and a Prayer”, the blog is a blow by blow account of the amazing places the couple visits in different countries across the African continent as they record their adventure for posterity; Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt.

So how does this tie in with WWD? I’ll tell you. During John and Arlene’s stay in memorable Kenya, they happen to (naturally) visit some of it’s world-famous national parks and game reserves. The Maasai Mara, L. Nakuru and Hell’s Gate national parks are all part of the itinerary in their journey into the Kenyan hinterland. In their own words, the Rift Valley is indescribable in its beauty:

Coming from Nairobi we have to stop and put on our fleeces. And as usual and from nowhere kids materialise to see us kit up and to ask a few questions. A classic one is ‘is this a Landrover motorbike?’ In some of the towns there is paid parking and it’s the ladies who collect the revenue. On two occasions they have been given their marching orders by the ‘spectators’ because they can see that the vehicle is a piki piki and not a car. It’s going to be a short day’s ride and we’re feeling on top of the world. Not just literally. We are climbing steadily and without warning we are met with the most amazing spectacle, more than just breathtaking. From the escarpment above the Rift Valley in all it’s glory. (Lonely Planet) The escarpment crashes sheer to the floor of a volcano studded valley hundreds of meters below. If the view could speak it would surely say ‘Welcome to Africa’ We could not describe it better.

With such breathtaking beauty in your own backyard (speaking to Kenyans), you should be humbled. It is a privilege to go to sleep and wake up next to one of the world’s most revered natural sites on a daily basis. We all need to respect and appreciate the gifts nature’s bounty have given us. Better still, we need to ensure that such gifts are preserved for posterity so that future generations can enjoy similar privileges and visitors from the world over can also see them.

LNCC-Lake Naivasha 4
A russet sunset over L. Naivasha

By conserving wetlands, we are taking care of a bigger part of the environment other than our immediate surrounding. We are protecting the world from the vagaries of climate change, preserving a natural heritage, and ensuring that our children’s children will be able to stare at golden sunrises across the steaming Rift Valley with the same wonder in their eyes as was in ours…for centuries to come.

Leaders call for concerted efforts to conserve Lake Naivasha as they pledge to help raise some KShs. 2 billion

Nakuru County Governor, Kamau Mbugua addresses participants during the third stakeholders consultative forum at Lake Naivasha Simba Lodge on 22, January, 2015
Imarisha CEO, Kamau Mbogo, gives his presentation
Naivasha MP, John Kihagi
Governor Mbugua engages participants

Leaders in Nakuru County have called for concerted efforts to save Lake Naivasha, its catchment and riparian land.

Led by Governor Kinuthia Mbugua, the leaders urged all stakeholders to join hands in efforts to conserve the vital wetland, one of the few Ramsar sites (wetlands of international significance) that exist in Kenya.

They pledged to help raise up to KShs. 1.9 billion needed to restore the fading glory of the Lake Naivasha Basin, according to budgetary recommendations made by chairmen of committees set up to study challenges in conservation and suggest possible mitigation strategies.

“Lake Naivasha is the lifeline of the entire country and the world. Without it, livelihoods would be put to peril as well as the ecological well-being of the globe itself. We must work together to protect it,” said Mr. Mbugua.

Naivasha parliamentary representative, John Kihagi, reiterated that wise use of resources within the Lake Naivasha Basin would unleash countless economic opportunities for all stakeholders while maintaining the biodiversity for posterity and reducing conflicts.

“Lake Naivasha is a potential source of conflict. A resource is only a resource if it helps humanity enhance their livelihoods rather than causing aggravation,” Mr. Kihagi said.

The MP added: “We need sustainable management of resources within the Lake Naivasha Basin, from the upper catchment to the lowlands, in order to satisfy the diverse needs of all who reside within the basin.”

The two leaders were part of hundreds of participants who had assembled at the Lake Naivasha Simba Lodge for the third stakeholders consultative meeting on sustainable management of the Lake Naivasha riparian land convened by the Governor.

The meeting had been convened to enable the governor to presentations from the chairmen of the 10 committees formed by the governor during the first consultative forum held at the same venue on December 4, 2013. The group was drawn from civil society organizations, community based organizations, water resource users associations, community forest associations, representatives from the national and county governments, flower farms and other stakeholder groups.

During the meeting, 10 thematic areas had been identified as critical to the restoration of Lake Naivasha. These are; establishment of access corridors, encroachment of riparian lands, sustainable use of riparian land, fisheries management, sewerage and sanitation management, pollution management, restoration of vegetative cover, security, weak enforcement of water resources management, and wildlife control and management.

Mr. Kihagi lauded efforts made by Imarisha Naivasha in its coordination role in the conservation of the Lake Naivasha Basin.

“I have been pushing parliament to have Imarisha’s funding increased. This is due to the good job that you have been doing here,” he said.

Participants at the stakeholders meeting agreed to hold a similar meeting in April 2015 after Easter in order to assess progress on important milestones, including mobilization for the KShs. 1.9 billion budgeted for by the 10 committees in their recommendations.

All Roads Lead to Kibirong, Nandi County, for this Year’s World Wetlands Day Celebrations

The WLake boatorld Wetlands Day celebrations for 2015 are slated to be held at Kibirong in Nandi County, according to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

The theme for this year’ fete is “managing our wetlands for the future.” The event marks the day the Convention on Wetlands was adopted on February 2, 1971 at Ramsar in Iran on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Every year since 1997, the Ramsar Secretariat produces tonnes of information to create awareness amongst the public about the value of wetlands.

One of the immense benefits of wetlands, sadly currently seen as mere wastelands, is that it greatly enhances the globe’s resilience against the adverse effects of climate change.

Imarisha Naivasha, one of the foremost institutions spearheading wetland conservation within the Lake Naivasha Basin, welcomes everyone to join in the celebrations, not just in Kibirong, but across the entire country as well.

World Wetlands Day, 2015

February 2 is World Wetlands Day.

This should be a day of great importance to humanity considering the immense socio-cultural, economic, and ecological benefits that wetlands have within the ecosystem. Wetlands provide food to billions of people all over the world. They also soak in tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

According to the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for “the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands in cognizance of their fundamental ecological functions as well as their economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value,” wetlands purify our water sources and act as a source of food for billions of people around the world by providing abundant fish and rice.

And, writing in the National Wetlands Newsletter (July-August 2013 edition), American conservationist and environmental law scholar at the Vermont Law School, Prof Patrick Parenteau, asserts that some economists estimate that wetlands provide ecosystem services worth some $11 trillion annually.

These services comprise of, first and foremost, provisioning services that are provided as means of sustenance to people, for example fruits, fish and rice for food, or wood for making fires and building houses.

Secondly, there are regulating services that act as a natural buffer against calamity, for example, marshes act as natural water reservoirs that soak in extra surface water run-off during heavy rains to prevent flooding.

Thirdly, wetlands provide culture enhancing services, including aesthetic, educational and recreational such as tourism, which are of significant economic and cultural value. Lastly, wetlands also provide supporting services to the ecosystem including nutrient cycling, soil formation among many others.

Wetlands are a bastion against the harmful effects of climate change. The degradation of wetlands enhances the vulnerabilities of communities to the vagaries of climate change, such as floods, drought and famine.

It is, therefore, disheartening that much of the global wetlands have often been viewed as wastelands and, as Ramsar reports on, we have lost a total of 64% of our wetlands since 1900. Efforts are, however, being made to reverse this calamitous trend, both locally and abroad.

Here in Kenya, the government has zeroed in on wetlands as a key pillar of its environmental conservation efforts. A good example is within the Lake Naivasha Basin where immense resources, both monetary and human, have been expended to ensure sustainable use of water resources and biodiversity conservation.

The blueprint for this action is the Lake Naivasha Basin Integrated Management Plan 2012-2022 (LNBIMP) that outlines “an integrated, equitable and coordinated approach to resource use within the Lake Naivasha Basin and proposes the development of joint efforts in the promotion of environmental conservation, sustainable development and improved livelihoods for stakeholders in the Basin.”

The overall purpose of the 10-year conservation master-plan is to streamline natural resource use within the basin and avoid conflicts amongst the different stakeholders who derive a living from the lake. It is based on several principles, key among them the “wise use” principle, which states that natural resource planning within the basin “should be integrated into national economic planning for sustainable development, wealth creation and environment management.”

Equally important are the polluter pays and user pays principles, which hold that the person responsible for polluting the environment pays for the cost of cleaning it up and also that those who benefit from natural resources should pay for them. This is currently taking place in the Lake Naivasha Basin where flower farms and hotels pay for the water abstracted from the lake.

Implementation of the plan as envisioned by LNBIMP will go hand in hand with the Integrated Water Resource Action Plan (IWRAP). IWRAP is the brainchild of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in conjunction with several other state and non-state institutions including the Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA), The Dutch University of Twente Faculty of Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation (ITC), The Kenya Flower Council and Imarisha Naivasha.

Imarisha Naivasha is the coordinating agency within IWRAP, tasked with ensuring that all players within the Basin are acting in congruence rather than at cross-purposes. It runs a trust fund that receives funding from within and outside Kenya in support of conservation efforts within the Lake Naivasha Basin.

Formed through a Gazette notice on May 20, 2011, Imarisha is committed to achieving the four envisioned outcomes of its Sustainable Development Action Plan (SDAP), which is a five-year blue-print that will help it to achieve its goals.

One of the envisioned outcomes is to ensure the protection of Lake Naivasha and the riparian basin and management of resource use according to “wise use” principles. The second is to ensure that land use and management within the catchment contributes to sustainable development and climate change resilience.

Thirdly, Imarisha must endeavor to improve the capacity of water resource institutions and mechanisms to regulate water use and improve community access to clean water and sewerage. Last but not least, the organization should endeavor to be recognized and to function effectively as the coordinating institution for Lake Naivasha Basin restoration, wise use and sustainable development.

In efforts to achieve the first three outcomes, Imarisha has initiated over 40 community micro-projects all geared towards sustainable livelihoods within the Basin with financial support from the Government of Kenya, Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, German International Development Agency (GIZ), and the European flower retail supermarkets (Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ASDA, Rewe and Co-Ops).

One of the notable projects that Imarisha has undertaken so far includes the Lake Naivasha Water Stewardship project completed in collaboration with GIZ. The project will ensure that communities living within the basin and their livestock do not suffer from perennial droughts and water shortage.

It will also minimize human-wildlife conflicts by ensuring that humans and their livestock do not cross over to the lake thus interfering with wildlife. Similarly, Ecoagriculture Partners, a US-based organization that supports integrated landscapes management, has partnered with Imarisha to initiate a livelihoods enhancement project in the Lake Naivasha Basin.

Some US$30,000 has been earmarked for the project under the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature programme which will directly benefit the people of Naivasha and its environs. The project involves sharing of information, policy dialogues and collaboration in conservation activities. Three groups will be funded to undertake micro-community projects.

Imarisha is on course to achieving its objectives, including Outcome Four, by enhancing existing partnerships and nurturing new ones such as the one with Ecoagriculture Partners, in order to achieve sustainable development within the Lake Naivasha Basin.

As we celebrate the World Wetlands Day, such an initiative should be lauded and many more established to protect our wetlands, our environment, and life as we know it on this planet.