November 2019

Greetings from Nairobi! 

This month, we focus on water - "the solvent of life." The U.S. Government's water strategy, which you can read below, envisions a water-secure world, where people and nations have the water they need to be healthy, prosperous, and resilient. Check out our technical resources to see how USAID is helping to assess the gap between water availability and need. The resources suggest pathways toward the sustainable availability of water.

One of the surest ways to protect water resources is to work with the communities that rely on those resources. In Kenya, the USAID Environment Office is partnering with communities that live alongside Kenya's important watersheds to create participatory forest management plans. Read about it in "Safeguarding Kenya's Water Towers. " Also in Kenya, we are helping coastal communities manage fishing to ensure future yields. Read about it below.

Downstream from the Mau Forest Complex, one of Kenya's largest water towers, lies the Mara River Basin. There, with support from our Sustainable Water Partnership program, the governments of Kenya and Tanzania are producing water allocation plans to meet the needs of more than a million people.

Finally, I encourage you to click on the value and vulnerability of Kenya's water towers. Some of the numbers will astound you.

Enjoy the read!
Aurelia Micko
Environment Office Chief
USAID Kenya and East Africa
This month, a team of social scientists and GIS mapping specialists from the U.S. Forest Service joined local communities and representatives from the Kenya Forest Service to collect data on the Kiptogot Forest in Kenya's Mt. Elgon Ecosystem. The data will inform the development of Participatory Forest Management Plans for the protection of Kenya’s key water towers. The localized plans support enhanced conservation, sustainable management, and improved community livelihoods.
Kenya’s five major forest “water towers” – Aberdares, Cherangani Hills, Mau Complex, Mt. Elgon and Mt. Kenya – provide invaluable services to Kenya’s people, economy and wildlife. About 75% of the country’s renewable water resources comes from these vital national assets. These assets are threatened by irregular and poorly planned settlements, overgrazing, illegal forest resource extraction, and the conversion of forests into farms. This degradation, along with fluctuating rainy seasons and extreme weather events, are contributing to a growing water crisis.

The Kenya Water Tower Climate Change Resilience program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented in part by the U.S. Forest Service, works with the Government of Kenya and local communities to strengthen the protection, rehabilitation and conservation of these watersheds for many years to come.
Above, p articipants from the Kiptogot Community Forest take part in a participatory mapping exercise.

Below, U.S. Forest Service expert Natasha James leads an exercise with the Community Forestry Association to determine key uses for the landscape that should be integrated into the Community Forest Management Plans.

To inform localized plans, the U.S. Forest Service socio-economic team collected data on the demographics, livelihoods, and agricultural practices of local communities to better understand how they use forest resources. The GIS team is mapping forest boundaries, management zones, physical features, community forest use areas, resources, and areas of degradation or threat.
The USAID Water Tower Climate Change Resilience Program partnered with the Kenya Ministry of Environment and Forestry to assess the value and vulnerability of Kenya's water towers. They also worked to better understand the impacts of climate change on Kenya’s economy. The major takeaways from the assessment are summarized in the infographic to the right. The assessment estimates that the total economic value per year of three of Kenya's water towers (watersheds) is KES 357 billion. Those towers - the Mau Forest Complex, Mt.Elgon, and Cherangany Hills - provide 35 million cubic meters of water annually for domestic, irrigation, and industrial use.

To learn what you can do to safeguard Kenya's renewable water, read the bottom of the infographic. Also, read more Water Tower project assessments:

Read the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of Kenya's Water Towers here .

Read Kenya's Water Tower Conservation and Coordination Policy here .
In Lamu County on the coast of Kenya, local communities are safeguarding their fishing industry by establishing locally managed marine areas through community conservancies. The Pate Marine Community Conservancy now has four locally managed marine areas with trained rangers that monitor the health of coral reefs and gather data on fish and macroinvertebrate densities. Among other things, that data informs community-designated “no-take zones”, or temporary fishing restrictions.

The new conservation practice has allowed fish and octopus to repopulate and grow bigger. This year, Pate Conservancy closed two of the four locally managed marine areas to octopus fishing for four months. The first five-day opening in April yielded 186 kilograms (kgs) of mostly small octopus, but the second five-day opening, in September, yielded 868 kgs of octopus for 70 fishers. The largest octopus caught was a massive 3.8 kgs. Fishers earned approximately $80 per person over the five days of fishing. By enforcing designated closures, and collecting data to inform those closures, local communities are helping to sustain their natural resources and their livelihoods for years to come.

USAID provides long-term operational support to Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) community conservancies in Lamu County. NRT and The Nature Conservancy provide community management with technical support. 
During the September 2019 five-day opening of the October closure, 70 fishers pulled in 868 kilograms of octopus. Forty-one of those fishers were women. Above, two women fish for octopus in a locally managed marine area.
The active involvement of Tanzanian officials offers promise of a better and more effective water resources management plan in the Mara River Basin.
When determining how to distribute a finite resource, securing cooperation between all who depend on the resource is crucial. But how do you do that, particularly when the limited resource in question – water – is the essential building block of life?

The USAID-funded Sustainable Water Partnership is working to address this question in the Mara River Basin in collaboration with government and local stakeholders in Kenya and Tanzania, as part of the three-year Sustainable Water for the Mara activity. In 2015, the governments of Kenya and Tanzania signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly manage the water resources of the Mara basin, a world-famous ecosystem that between the two countries supplies more than a million people with their water needs.

To understand the gap between the amount of water available against the demand, each country is developing a water allocation plan for their portion of the river basin.

Sustainable Water Partnership | Engaging Early for...

The Mara River is slowly losing water for a variety of reasons, among them deforestation, land use change, rapid urbanization, population growth and climate change.

Read more
The USAID-funded Sustainable Water Partnership is activity is supporting Tanzania to develop an allocation plan for the lower Mara basin and to harmonize it with Kenya's plan for the upper Mara Basin. The result will be a transboundary water allocation plan.
Millions of people in the arid regions of Kenya and Ethiopia face  water scarcity  and frequent  drought . Water resource forecasting and reliable operation of  groundwater  distribution systems may improve drought resilience. In this study, we examined three  remote sensing  data sets against in-situ sensor-collected  groundwater extraction  data from 221 water points serving over 1.34 million people across northern Kenya and Afar, Ethiopia between January 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018. In models containing rainfall as a binary variable, we observed an overall 23% increase in  borehole  runtime following weeks with no rainfall compared to weeks preceded by some rainfall. Further, a 1 mm increase in rainfall was associated with a 1% decrease in borehole use the following week. When surface water availability is reduced during the dry seasons, groundwater demand increases. Our findings emphasize the imperative to maintain functionality of groundwater boreholes in these regions which often suffer drought related emergencies. Funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, the National Science Foundation, and the Cisco Foundation. 
Quantifying increased groundwater demand from prolonged...

We examined rainfall against groundwater use at 221 water points serving over 1.34 million people in the arid regions of Kenya and Ethiopia....

Read more
In Kenya's Kitui County, an information gap exists on water coverage and quality of water service delivery for a large segment of the county population. To fill this gap, the USAID Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership supported the University of Oxford to undertake a water audit in seven sub-counties. The water audit located major rural water infrastructure and collected information on installation and operational performance to inform county planning, investment, institutional development, and dialogue on sustainability. The water audit mapped a total of 3,126 equipped and unequipped water sources spread across Kitui County.

Findings suggests that investments in county water infrastructure have grown considerably, but sustainability of water services remains a challenge due in large part to infrastructure breakdown. Findings point to a need for continued monitoring and targeted support of the rural water sector — which may include integration of public-private partnership models of operation and maintenance — for sustainable drinking water services to be achieved.
The report produced an inventory of both functional and non-functional rural water facilities to facilitate evidence-based decision making. It shows the facilities to direct investments toward, and underscores the need for inclusion of a kitty for maintenance in the budgeting process. The report also identifies key actors and their contribution in the water and sanitation sector. This forms a useful database for strengthening coordination and improving service delivery.
USAID developed an agency-specific plan (the “Water and Development Plan”) in conjunction with the whole-of-government Global Water Strategy (see page 12 of the Global Water Strategy, on right). It provides a framework for USAID’s contribution to the U.S. government’s shared vision for a water-secure world, and links directly to the following strategic objectives in the Global Water Strategy:
  • Promote sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, and the adoption of key hygiene behaviors
  • Encourage the sound management and protection of freshwater resources
  • Strengthen water sector governance, financing, and institutions
(Articles and headlines are taken directly from the sources cited)

“If you live in the developed world or in some urban centers, then the supply of water is guaranteed,” said Gordon Mumbo, team leader for Sustainable Water for the Mara River Basin, a project of Winrock International and USAID’s   Sustainable Water Partnership , in this week’s   Water Stories podcast . When you wake up, you expect water to flow from your tap. “If you don’t find it flowing, you get upset and will probably call the utility company.” But people living in the Mara River Basin don’t have that luxury. “They have to walk to the river to get water and bring it home,” said Mumbo. Source: New Security Beat. Listen to the Podcast

“We don’t have a world water crisis, we have a world water management crisis,” said Brigadier General Gerald Galloway (U.S. Army Ret.) at the  2nd National Drought Forum , hosted by the National Integrated Drought Information System and the National Drought Resilience Partnership at the United States Institute of Peace. The Forum brought together subject matter experts with federal and state leaders to discuss how to strengthen the state-federal relationship to improve U.S. drought readiness and resilience. Source: New Security Beat. Read more .

Kenya's rapidly growing capital city is facing severe problems with the supply and quality of its water supply, driving people to buy it from unsafe and potentially contaminated sources.
So, how bad is the water problem facing Nairobi and how does it compare with other major cities in Africa? Source: BBC. Read more.

Millions of people living in the arid regions of the Horn of Africa  lack  safe, reliable and affordable water  throughout  the year. This is  because of  recent decreases in rainfall in the drought-prone Horn of Africa, rising water demands and persistent challenges in maintaining water supplies.
Historically, responses to drought have been reactive. International emergency assistance is dispatched once the emergency happens in a bid to save lives and livelihoods. It then disappears when the immediate crisis dissipates. Source: The Conversation. Read more
USAID Kenya and East Africa Environment |