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November 17, 2018

Hundreds facing abject poverty as threats loom in Ewaso Ng'iro river basin

Sand harvesting at the Ewaso-Ng'iro River basin. /GILBERT KOECH
Sand harvesting at the Ewaso-Ng'iro River basin. /GILBERT KOECH

Hundreds of pastoralist are facing abject poverty following the over exploitation of natural resources in the upper regions of Ewaso Ng'iro river basin.

Speaking on Friday at the end of five-day camel caravan, environmentalists said there is need to reverse the trend as it has lead to conflicts such as the ones seen in Laikipia county recently.

“We do not need to fight over water or pasture. We need to safeguard and restore our resources for people and nature,” Abdullahi Shandey from Merti Integrated development programme said.

Shandey said there is serious sand harvesting along the river, a move that does not augur well with conservation.

"There is need to help county government come up with policies to take care of the river,” he said.

Partners for Resilience Kenya together with six communities’ along the Ewaso Ngiro basin organised camel caravan.

The caravan which ran from Monday to Friday through the basin was aimed at promoting and advocating for protection and restoration of Ewaso-Ngiro River basins Ecosystem.

It also sought to promote peaceful co-existence among the communities in Isiolo, Laikipia and Samburu Counties who depend on this river as their lifeline.

The five day walk traversed Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo counties targeting the upstream-midstream and downstream water users including both large scale and small commercial farmers and investors like the large irrigation farms.  

It covered over 200 kilometers.

Some of the camels that took part int he five-day caravan that went through Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo counties, September 15, 2017. /GILBERT KOECH

Samburu county director of disaster management and cohesion Daniel Lesaigor said 25 per cent of residents rely on the river and another 40 per cent of livestock.

"A lot of conflict is due to water and grass; we need to plan to avoid such conflict. We are in process of preparing disaster management policy and all communities needs to participate as we are in the same environment," he said.

Ewaso Ng’iro River supports livelihoods of approximately 3.6 million people.

Lesaigor said the national policy being prepared by the government and is in draft must be subjected to public participation.

Wetlands International Kenya communication officer Joy Kivata-Esiliah who represented partners for resilience said there is need for communities to utilise the little resources they have.

“Resources are scarce and they need to be conserved for a future generations,” she said.

Isiolo county commissioner George Natembeya said it is predicted that the third world war will be about natural resources such as water.

He warned those hell-bent in engaging in criminal activities such as cattle rustling that they will be met with equal force.

The Ewaso Nyiro River flows down from Mount Kenya to water the dry plains that stretch east from the Great Rift Valley in Kenya.

The sparsely populated plains are a haven for wildlife, which rely on the Ewaso Nyiro River as a source of water.

Multiple public and private wildlife reserves, including Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve, line the banks of the river.In 2009, the river wasted and then went dry as the region sank into severe drought. The dry river bed is exposed in this true-color image, captured by the Advanced Land Imager on NASA’s EO-1 satellite on September 27, 2009.

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