Protect water towers for posterity

Environmental degradation and resource depletion are among key challenges facing us today. Such challenges include deforestation, destruction of water catchment areas, pollution and poor waste management.

Resources, especially natural; land, grazing fields and water for domestic and agricultural use breed conflicts the world over. Water might become one of the major reasons for wars tomorrow, if not already today. Yet, with proper planning and management, this can be avoided.

Within the framework of the renewed political dialogue between Kenya and the European Union, we are working on several key areas, including environmental protection and climate change adaptation.

Our focus is shifting from providing technical and financial aid to a fuller partnership aimed at tackling strategic interests and challenges, translating political and socio-economic commitments into concrete and sustainable programmes.

The visit by Kenya’s President and several Cabinet Secretaries to the recent European Development Day held in Brussels bears witness to this renewed partnership. When it comes to environmental protection and climate change, a lot of work has been done.

In 2015, we went to Paris, within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where 195 countries adopted the first ever universal and legally binding global climate deal.

On that occasion, Kenya provided a continental leadership very widely appreciated. Among some of the key elements Governments agreed on was to strengthen society’s ability to deal with the impacts of Climate Change, providing continued and enhanced international support for adaptation.

The European Union agreed to support such climate action agenda. This includes reducing emissions and building resilience to climate change impacts, especially in developing countries. For Kenya, response to Climate Change is a national priority.

That is why we adopted the National Climate Change Action Plan, in line with the attainment of Vision 2030.

This encourages a people-centred development, putting communities first, as they are the most affected by Climate Change and environmental degradation.

It is for these reasons that the Kenyan government and the European Union are partnering in the Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and adaptation project being launched on the June 23rd in Eldoret.

Through this project, we hope to help eradicate poverty through improving the productivity of the ecosystem in two of Kenya’s five water towers, Mt Elgon and Cherengany Hills.

It is a six-year programme joining the collaborative effort of several implementing agencies, with the support of the European Union through a Euro 31 million grant, which translates to Sh3.6 billion.

The programme is implemented under the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, together with Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Water Tower Agency (KWTA) and the National Climate Change Secretariat and the 11 counties within the catchment area: Busia, Bungoma, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Kakamega, Kisumu, Vihiga, Uasin Gishu, Siaya, Trans-Nzoia and West Pokot.

At the end of this programme, we will have better management, improved systems and trained officers at the local levels.

The Ministry of Environment and the implementing agencies will work towards strengthening county governments’ with knowledge and skills to coordinate the restoration, conservation and management of Water Towers. This will be coordinated through a technical assistance team.

The Kenya Forestry Research Institute will undertake analysis and characterisation of the two water towers and its ecosystems to inform appropriate targeting of interventions and policy decisions. The Kenya Forest Service, in partnership with the Kenya Water Towers Agency, The Kenya Wildlife Service and The National Climate Change Secretariat will formulate integrated management plans and implement the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Plan.

County governments within the programme will be supported to identify, appraise and implement rehabilitation, reclamation and restoration mechanisms for ecologically and economically sustainable land use systems.

It is an ambitious programme which, when fully implemented, will positively impact the lives of several communities and conserve our environment for present and future generations.

The Water Towers Programme will help preserve the environment for future generations while improving the lives of the communities through ecologically and economically sustainable land use systems and livelihood interventions.

This offers a win-win solution for both the community and the environment.

This programme is a key step to taking action in tackling Climate Change through sustainable ecosystem services.