-Maasai Mau Forest block of the Mau Forest Complex is the most threatened area of the water tower.
-Those who have encroached on the forest must be removed
Mau Forest Complex has been cited as the most important water tower in Kenya as it supports millions of livelihoods across the country, regionally and internationally.
The water tower is a major catchment for 12 major rivers, which drain into Lake Turkana, Baringo, Nakuru and two trans- boundary lakes; Natron and Victoria.
It stretches across six counties: Narok, Bomet, Kericho, Nakuru, Baringo and Uasin Gishu and is the lifeline to the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. Mara-Serengeti is a world re-known tourist attraction ecosystem that has also been recognised as a heritage site by Unesco.
The water tower is critical in promotion of tourism, agriculture, pastoralism, biodiversity and hydro-electric generation.
It comprises of 22 forest blocks with the Maasai Mau Forest block, covering an area of 42, 678 hectares being the most threatened region of the water tower. Most restoration efforts have focused on this block, which has particularly been threatened by human encroachment.
Degradation around this part of the water tower has resulted in reduced river flows, frequent floods, prolonged drought, food shortages, poor land productivity, conflict over resources including water and pasture among others.
If nothing is done, the situation will worsen considering the rate of encroachment on Maasai Mau forest block.
Encroachment in this block dates back to the 1970s when the Government declared five adjudication sections in the North of Olposimoru and Maasai Mau Forest.
The adjudication of the group ranches which took place in 1999 led to the ballooning of the group ranches beyond the boundaries of the adjudicated boundaries leading to a total of 17,101 hectares in excess.
Concerns about the degradation of Maasai Mau Forest have led to the formation of many task forces, hearings, assessments and academic studies. All these task forces agreed on one thing- “those who have encroached on the forest must be removed and the original boundaries restored.”
Phase one removal of illegal settlers in Maasai Mau Forest was carried out in July and August 2018.
The operation targeted about 2,400 settlers in Nkoben and KassFm areas of Maasai Mau. An estimated 4,500 hectares of forest land was recovered.
After the exercise, the Kenya Water Towers Agency established two camps for the Joint Enforcement Unit at Kosia and Osanangururi to ensure that the areas recovered are well protected.
Some stakeholders have already undertaken rehabilitation of part of the reclaimed forest land. For instance, ENSDA is rehabilitating 300 acres, of which 164 acres have been restored with bamboo.
Report of Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko