– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director
On September 15th, stakeholders from Kenya, Tanzania and surrounding communities will come together to celebrate Mara Day to focus on the health of the Mara River. Informative activities and presentations aim to foster discussions on water quality, pollution, deforestation, drought and other environmental and social challenges facing the MRB and its sustainable development.
More than 1.1 million people live in the MRB and a wealth of flora and fauna depend on its resources. It’s no coincidence the event takes place during the famous wildebeest migration in which the perennial Mara River becomes the destination for the world’s largest mammal migration of almost 2 million wildebeest and zebra. For more information about Mara Day: http://allafrica.com/stories/201307261515.html?viewall=1
But its very critical source, The Mau Forest in Kenya, has been suffering devastation for years as industry – and local people needing wood – have cut down this forest. The forest’s retention of water during the seasons of heavy rains plays a crucial role to the entire watershed.
The Mara River, fed by waters from the Mau Forest, nurtures iconic plains species that bring lucrative tourism and jobs; commercial and subsistence farmers; fisherman; and the ecosystems of its Lake Victoria terminus.
And perhaps most important, the Mara supplies drinking water to its inhabitants and their livestock, yet it can no longer be guaranteed to be clean, healthy water.
In NWNL’s expedition covering the length of the Mara River and in our interviews with many stakeholders and stewards en route, it became clear that education is the key. Those who live in the Basin now must learn the upstream-downstream consequences of their water and forest usage, and why it is critical for tomorrow and future tomorrows to adjust their habits and practices to ensure the sustainability of livestock, flora, fauna and their own communities.
View NWNL’s video “The Mau Forest, Source of the Mara River” from the 2009 MRB expedition here.
Upstream dams on the Omo River continue to put pressure on the northern Kenyan Pokot and Turkana tribes, who have been fighting for generations over diminishing resources, water access, grazing lands, and livestock.
On a recent expedition, No Water No Life documented alternative options for the local indigenous pastoralists and fishermen. Development projects included bee-keeping for many honey products, camel husbandry as a more drought-appropriate replacement for cattle and goats, and wild silk production from moths on local acacia. CABESI’s “Kitchen Without Borders” is an initiative to foster peaceful relations between indigenous tribes in the region. It’s main focus is to utilize natural resources to benefit the local community.
Check out NWNL photos of the Pokot Land and People Kenya’s Lake Turkana region.
These photos were taken on No Water No Life’s Omo River Basin Expedition in January of 2013.
All images © Alison M. Jones for http://www.nowater-nolife.org
– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director
YESTERDAY 70% of Kenya went to the polls to vote for their new governors and next president, undaunted by blazing heat, long lines and nagging memories of the election violence Kenyans suffered 5 years ago. As I write this, only 40% of the votes have been counted and thus the winners are uncertain and violence could still be a sad outcome if results are disputed.
What is certain is that the last 5 years have prompted many efforts by Kenyans to move past their history of ethnic strife and become a country of diversity that honors peace. So many people I’ve met in Kenya over the last 5 years are now calling themselves “Kenyans” first and only later mentioning their tribal affiliation.
One such effort, witnessed in January this year by team members of the NWNL Lake Turkana Expedition, is the opening of a “Kitchen Without Borders” on the boundary of Turkana and Pokot Lands. Kitchen Without Borders, or “Cuisine Sans Frontieres,” is a global effort begun in Switzerland to encourage warring clans to begin the process of peace by simply sitting down together to eat.
The northern Kenyan Pokot and Turkana tribes, like too many others in Kenya and neighboring Sudan and Ethiopia, have been fighting for generations over grazing lands, livestock, water access and retribution for past offenses. The problem is obvious when one learns that the literal derivation of the word “rival” is “the person who wants access to the same water resource you use.”
In Orwa, on the road between Kapenguria (Pokot Country) and Lodwar (Turkana Country), a restaurant called “Calabash” has opened for local travelers, offering local food (much of which comes from their backyard garden), drink, lodging – or just a friendly game of checkers.
At this roadside oasis, elders teach their youngsters how to play the traditional game of “bao,” in which each stone captured on the board represents the acquisition of a cow. Hopefully old animosities will be unknown by these children; just as Kenyans today are hoping the past atrocities that accompanied their elections are now past history.
The Orwa peace effort, similar to other Kitchens Without Borders in South America, represents nothing political. Kenya’s Kitchens without Borders offers a low-key opportunity to share the daily basics of life for an afternoon. Sitting down for a meal and sharing some quiet moments offers a break from the dusty road. It’s a chance to relax and meet others who share the same road.
Those visionaries, who have created this roadside respite of camaraderie as an escape from anger and bitterness, cheerfully hand out ripe mangoes to all who pass by – as well as best wishes for one’s journey.
“If people can sit down to eat together, peace will come,” according to Rolf Gloor, our host in Kapenguria and founder of CABESI, a project offering alternative livelihoods to pastoralists who find their old traditions must adapt to future needs and climatic situations.