Efforts have been put in place to conserve river tributaries that form Mara River as it drains into Lake Victoria through Tanzania.
Kenya Nile Discourse Forum (KNDF), the Kenyan chapter of Nile Discourse Forum (NDF) has been engaging locals living along the tributaries of Mara River with an aim to conserve the rivers.
Paul Rono, Secretary Mara River Water Users Association says the tributaries are key to the survival of Mara River thus the need to conserve them.
Rono says there are two major rivers, Nyongores and Amala that drains to Mara River which must be conserved at all cost.
“We have five river tributaries that converge at a point to form Mara River and we must ensure they are conserved,” he said.
Most rivers, he says, originate from Mau Forest in Narok and conservation efforts are geared towards keeping the rivers flowing.
Rono says families living downstream of Mara River Basin must be engaged more consistently in a bid to sensitize them on proper utilization of their land next to the rivers.
“We have the Maa community and the Kalenjin community, and each and every community have their own culture of their living,” he said.
For the Maa community, he says, they are pastoralists and keep a lot of animals which whenever they walk around in terms of grazing and foot paths to the water source, they degrade the environment.
Rono noted that the upstream of the Basin is littered with small scale farmers who farm up to the riparian land thus degrading the environment.
Speaking at Tenwek water fall in Bomet, Rono says through the Mara River Basin project, the conservation has been scaled up and there is need to do more.
“I must commend the good effort put in place by non state actors to engage the locals to ensure they engage in other income activities and shun cutting trees for charcoal making,” he said.
Joseph Ngome, chairman, KNDF who spoke during a community consultation on the Mara River Basin Project in Kenya in Bomet and Narok counties on Wednesday called for more resources to be channeled towards the conservation of the water sources that emanate from Mau Forest.
“There is need to map out community groups along the Mara Basin so that they walk together in conservation of the environment around them,” he said.
Ngome says communities living along the tributaries must be sensitized that human activities lead to degradation of the environment.
He commended the National Government for protecting Mau Forest, the main source of rivers that feed Lake Victoria and the Nile.
On Monday, Deputy President William Ruto who toured Narok County reiterated that nobody should be allowed to live in Mau Forest as he lashed out at politicians he accuses of using the Forest as a political tool.
Ruto assured locals that no illegal settlers will return to the forest since the government has put in place plans to conserve it.
Eng Terence Ngoda, the Mara River Basin Manager based in Tanzania decried lack of water to the newly established towns along the Mara Basin.
Ngoda says the challenge now is to provide enough water to the population in these towns and for food production.
He announced that The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) has done feasibility studies for dams along the basin.
“We want to build water resoviours that can be used for hydro electric purposes, provide water for fishing and other domestic use,” he said.
Ngoda says 32 areas were identified for putting up the dams with 20 sites being in Kenya while 12 sites Tanzania.
He says NELSAP has secured some funds but will continue sourcing for other funds to implement trans-boundary projects within its jurisdiction.
Locals who attended the community consultations hailed the Mara River Basin Project in relation to the conservation of water catchment areas.
“There will be no Nile, Lake Victoria and Mara River if the communities living upstream degrade the environment,” said Flavian Kenduiywo, a member of Nyongores water users association.
Cynthia Chepkemoi, a local, says through the Project, women have benefited from beehives, fruit seedlings, improved cassava and banana tissues.
“The economic value of this project is huge and we look ahead to more projects to sustain the gains already made,” she said.
By Joseph Ojwang