http://www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Farmer-Kuria-Samuel-practices-drip-irrigation-in-the-Tana-River-Basin-Kenya.-Credit-Georgina-Smith-CIAT-5-1024x673-800x526.jpg

To provide farmers with training and support to implement soil-saving techniques

Photo credit: Google

Farmer Kuria Samuel practices drip irrigation in the Tana River Basin, Kenya.

 

Africa’s first Water Fund

By Stephanie Malyon, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture’s (CIAT) Communication Specialist for Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Originally published on the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) blog on March 20, 2015.

Tackling rising threats to food security, water and energy supplies

Every rainy season Jane Kabugi’s home comes under attack. The torrential rain so desperately needed downstream to fuel Kenya’s rising electricity demands – and Nairobi’s water requirements – has literally been tearing her home and farm apart.

Jane Kabugi and her farm“Our soil is very soft. So when it rains, the rain tends to take the soil away,” says Jane Kabugi on her farm. Photo: Stephanie Malyon

“There was a time when this house of mine was almost gone; it was starting to crack. An engineer came and said ‘if you want to save your house you need to make a strong hold so that the soil can be held’,” she said.

Like 90 per cent of the one million farmers in Kenya’s Tana region, northwest of Nairobi, Jane’s land sits on a steep hillside with a 75 percent incline. She explains: “Our soil is very soft. So when it rains, the rain tends to take the soil away. If I put manure it takes it, if I put fertiliser it takes it.”

Far from just affecting farmer homes and livelihoods in one of Kenya’s most agriculturally productive areas, the knock-on effect downstream is threatening water and energy supplies. As torrents carry precious top soil away from farms into the watershed, the Tana River, which drives half of Kenya’s hydropower-generated electricity and provides 95 per cent of Nairobi’s water, becomes choked with sediment.

Today (20 March 2015), in a first for Africa, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners* including the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), launched a landmark initiative aimed at supporting farmers and upstream users, like Jane, to curb the soil erosion that leads to reduced water and heavy cleaning costs.

The Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a public-private scheme uniting big business, utilities, conservation groups, government, researchers and farmers. It aims to increase farm productivity upstream, while improving water supply and cutting costs of hydropower and clean water for users downstream, and is designed to generate US$21.5 million in long-term benefits to Kenyan citizens, including farmers and businesses.

The Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a public-private scheme uniting big business, utilities, conservation groups, government, researchers and farmers.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.