On September 22, 2009, Alison Jones, NWNL’s lead photographer, and Alison Fast, a NWNL videographer, had an aerial view of the headwaters of the Mara River. Flying over the Mau Forest, they documented the degradation of this “water tower,” source of 12 major rivers in Kenya. Most of these rivers feed Lake Victoria, the source of the White Nile.
Many years of settlement in this forest – legal and illegal – has resulted in farms replacing trees. This change in land use, destroying the forest’s ability to retain and gradually release water, has caused a critical decrease in year-round water supplies to millions of stakeholders throughout Kenya.
NWNL’s one-month expedition traveled the length of the Mara River from these headwaters to its Lake Victoria outlet in Tanzania. En route, NWNL examined other factors that have caused the Mara and other rivers to lose critical water flow and in some cases run dry. In addition to deforestation, commercial and small-scale farmers’ unregulated extraction of water for irrigation and a three-year drought have wrought havoc.
These drastically reduced water supplies have caused human and livestock deaths, created conflict and forced Kenyans to reevaluate their traditional lifestyles and livelihoods. The continuing effects of climate change and future droughts require sustainable solutions.
Most importantly, NWNL will report on very encouraging and bold answers now being worked on by politicians, farmers and stakeholders, as well as by local, regional and international stewardship organizations. NWNL will further describe its Mara River Basin Expedition findings in future blogs.