Sunday, November 21, 2010

0 ‘Streams - Many smalls makes big’

This is a continuation of my previous post ‘Going going gone:…..’. Often, we tend to blame others, droughts, floods, bad omen or climate change for our environmental woes. But the fact is, most of environmental degradation is 'our own doing'. First, we need to take individual responsibility of our actions and also collective responsibility as a nation. The suggestions outlined here are collective, most of them on policy.

Allow me to correlate the wetlands and watersheds areas to roads. In our Kenyan Road Network, we have Class A Roads – linking Kenya to neighbouring countries. Class B Roads link major cities and towns. These two road classes are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Roads and Kenya National Highways Authority, for maintenance and infrastructural development. Others roads fall under the Kenya Rural Roads Authority and local government through municipals and town councils, as well as constituency funding. Correlating this road network to our wetlands and watersheds environments gives us the following: Major water towers (e.g. Mau  Complex, Mt. Kenya, Cherangani Hills, Mt. Elgon, Aberdare Ranges) and minor water towers, Big and small rivers and their catchments; Lakes, dams, swamps and marshes, springs and streams. As in the case of Class A and B roads, the major watersheds and rivers are taken care of the central government through the relevant ministries. Management of such environments requires an integrated approach that involves all stakeholders on the ground. Disparity comes in at the level of the local small rivers, springs and streams. Here, nobody seems to bother. While these are the ones that feed to the big rivers like Tana River for instance, hence being of great economic value to the nation, we only tend to see the Tana in our 'narrow' watershed management plans. We fail to see Rathithi stream, Gakui stream and Gakui spring for example, while they are the ones that recharge River Tana.

Apparently then, a river is not like a road, because if the feeder road is passable, we will still see traffic in the main, possibly tarmacked road. That does not apply with rivers. Reduced water in the stream directly means reduced volume in the main river in a direct relationship. We have to see it that way, in order to think and plan backwards.  Kenya is investing heavily on alternative electric power sources such as Geothermal and Wind Electric Power Production. Nevertheless, the country still relies heavily on Hydro-Electric Power (HEP) in its national grid and this is likely to be so for a long time to come. To get HEP, we need volume flowing through our rivers, and wisdom call us to protect the sources and tributaries of ALL rivers. Otherwise one day we wake up and darkness, factories and industries have to work half day, jobs and families are affected etc as power is rationed. Woe unto us if we think distributing free Energy Saving Bulbs can help us. Is it sustainable? That's like taking a pill for headache, heals the symptom alright, but the disease the root cause, is still there. I'd rather we use such funds to plant more trees and create awareness on the importance of protecting and conserving the watersheds.

How do we protect our springs, and the streams that the central government cannot take care of because of their apparent small size and ‘insignificance’? Over to you. I will be glad to hear about your local springs, streams and rivers...........and what local people are doing to save them!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

4 Going Going Gone: Case of Kenyan highlands Springs and Streams

I have been wondering, what is happening to our Springs and Streams! This question is prompted by my real life experiences and observations I have witnessed. In this post I take the case of Gakui stream, the one that I grew up knowing, playing with and taking my father’s cows to water. The stream emanates from Gakui spring at the end of Kiawambigo village, and empties its waters into Rathithi River. Rathithi River has its source in upstream springs and streams in tea growing areas, and is dammed into Ragati Dam before proceeding downwards to confluence with Gakui stream (Google Earth imagery for this region not clear!). Rathithi River empties its waters into Tana River (locally known as Sagana).

In the eighties, our parents could not allow us to go near Gakui stream after the rains (especially March – May long rains) fearing that we could be carried off and drown. In just less than twenty years, Gakui stream now flows for a few days after heavy rains then dries up. The stream is now dry.

Most middle-aged people in the rural areas in Kenya can attest that the environment around them and the climate has changed significantly, from the time they were young children about 25 – 30 years ago. It is obvious that older people can attest to more changes that have occurred in their lifetime. In the recent past, farmers could know when to prepare the land for planting as the rains were predictable, seasonal and reliable. The springs and local streams flowed with water, varying in volumes depending on the season, and were never dry. The valley bottoms were rich in riparian biodiversity. The stream waters were crystal clear, except during the rains, and the aquatic animals like fish (mainly Tilapia species), frogs (and their 'chained' eggs and tadpoles), water beetles and an array of water birds thrived. On the other hand, it was not uncommon to sight land-based animals like snakes, black and green mambas, hares, gazelles among others.

Needless to say, farmers nowadays do not know exactly when to do which farm management practice as they cannot foretell when the rains are coming. They are a confused lot; a complete departs from what used to happen before. There is increased variability and unreliability of rainfall, and confusing seasonality of rainfall events. In addition, the seasonal streams and rivers are now dry, and sustain reduced flows for a shorter period after the rains than before, or do not flow at all. Main reason could be that the water table has lowered significantly, and it has to be adequately recharged for the springs to start flowing again. The major perennial rivers in Kenya like Tana, Athi River, and others have now reduced volumes even during ‘normal’ long rains seasons. Volumes in big dams and lakes too, have not been spared, as it is the case of Ndaka-ini dam and Lake Naivasha.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

0 Web 2.0 for Sustainable Land Management

Web 2.0 Learning is a training conducted by Technincal Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA). The training is on the use of Web 2.0 Tools for disseminating and accessing information in by actors in the agricultural sector. The most recent training was being held in Baraka Agricultural College (BAC), Molo, Kenya, from 27th Sept. to 1st Oct 2010. The participants in this one week training were drawn from various institutions which included non-profit making, State Corporations, government ministries and training institution. A total of 24 participants attended the training.

The objective of the training was to build capacity in information communication technology especially in using the Web 2.0 internet collaboration tools among the participants. The participants are expected to conduct the same training in their organizations.

Web 2.0 refers to tools that are used for collaboration on the internet. The tools include the web logs (blogs), RSS feeds, wikis, folksonomies, tags, marshups, VoiP, Online mapping, Blogging like what you are reading now, Social networking, use of iMARK Module among others. These tools have given web users power to determine the content on the internet. Users can now develop a paper, an article even proposals remotely real-time using tools such as wikis and Google Doc, without having to send as email attachments. This is an amazing potential which if tapped in the Sub-Saharan Africa sharing of information on best practices and agricultural development and rural livelihoods can be improved. This may eventual accelerate the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the continent (and Vision 2030 for Kenya).
I'm not ignorant of the challenge of internet infrastructure but development is being made in this aspect in many countries. For instance, Kenya is already connected to the undersea fiber optic network. This is already bearing fruit as the connections charges are reducing. Mobile phones ownership is on the raise and their potential can also be exploited.

During the training the participant demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm which is a good indicator in the adoption of a technology. I wish all of them a good time as the use knowledge gained and train others.

Functional Ecosystems Copyright © 2011 - |- Template created by O Pregador - |- Powered by Blogger Templates