Agency, partners intensify efforts to conserve Mara ecosystem ahead of fete

Lake Victoria Basin Commission Executive Secretary Masinde Bwire plants trees with Victoria Primary School pupils. [Michael Mute, Standard]

Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) has stepped up efforts to conserve the Mara ecosystem ahead of the 12th Mara Day celebrations in Mugumu, Tanzania, next week.

This comes as officials from Kenya and Tanzania explore ways to entrench conservation of the basin in their activities to augment the successes of other efforts that have started bearing fruit.

Next week, thousands of environmental enthusiasts, government officials and local communities from the two countries will meet to celebrate the conservation efforts of the Mara ecosystem.

A series of activities have been lined up on Friday as a buildup to the celebrations, according to LVBC Executive Secretary Masinde Bwire.

The commission is also targeting to use the event to spur conservation efforts in the entire Lake Basin region by planting trees to boost forest cover.

The build-up activities started in Kisumu on Friday with officials from the commission, alongside partners, engaging in tree planting. The team planted 500 trees of which 100 were planted at Victoria and Manyatta primary schools located in Kisumu Central Business District.

"Conservation of the Mara basin is a major priority for the East African states," Bwire said, describing it as the lifeline to millions of people and wildlife.

He added: "We will also use the celebrations to recognise the contribution of different actors in the management of the Mara River basin while promoting public-private partnerships to improve the management of Mara's water resources and biodiversity."

Victoria Primary School pupils in Kisumu plant trees during the event spearheaded by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission. [Michael Mute, Standard]

The theme for this year's celebration is "Conserving Mara River basin for biodiversity and sustainable economy".

With the human population increasing, and water shortage affecting areas surrounding the vital river as well as pollution, partners from the two countries are keen to reverse the trend through sustained conservation efforts.

The Mara River basin covers a surface of 13,504 sq km, most of which, about 65 per cent, is on the Kenyan side. From its sources in the Kenyan highlands, the river flows for about 395 km, draining into Lake Victoria in Tanzania's Mara region.

Both Tanzania and Kenya have a shared resolve to sustainably manage Mara River Basin as a critical ecosystem in Lake Victoria Basin contributing to sustainable socio-economic development, biodiversity conservation and vibrancy of the economies of the States.

Efforts to conserve the basin have grown tremendously over the past five years with private sector involvement rising from 3 per cent to 60 per cent, according to reports by LVBC.

Yesterday, Ecobank, one of the partners leading the drive to conserve the ecosystem praised the efforts to increase forest coverage in the basin.

As part of a change in strategy to inculcate the conservation message to the younger generation, the bank has sponsored an essay writing competition that will see pupils from primary schools within the region attend the Mara Day celebrations in Tanzania.

The bank's regional manager in charge of Western Kenya Thaddeus Okwaro said they will participate in tree planting activities. He stated the bank has also embraced a paperless system to reduce usage of tree products.