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A plan for water in Kwale: vital for forests, wildlife and people


Water is a major issue for everyone in Kenya. The country is classified as ‘chronically water scarce’ and demands for water largely exceeds the available supply.

Many of our key industries, such as agriculture, tourism and energy production, are highly dependent on rainfall and water availability. At the same time, rapidly increasing urban populations and the emergence of new industries mean that the pressure on water is only growing whilst the impacts of changes in climate are further impacting water availability.

African elephant © Richard Barrett / WWF-UKFreshwater is vital for elephants and many other species in the region. © Richard Barrett / WWF-UK

Streams are drying up

In our county of Kwale we see a very similar situation. Only around 15% of Kwale’s population of more than 650,000 people have improved access to water. Rapid economic development in Kwale has resulted in high levels of water abstraction and pollution. Massive groundwater abstraction has resulted in salt-water intrusion into farmlands and groundwater, potentially impacting on the productivity of critical ecosystems such as mangroves which depend on freshwater for survival.

At the same time, due to deforestation, vegetation loss, unsustainable agricultural practises and poor livestock management, existing streams in the landscape are drying up.

Mangrove dieback © Elias Kimaru / WWFSome of mangroves experiencing dieback at the mouth of the
river. could over abstraction be contributing factor? © Elias Kimaru / WWF

Sustainable water management practices are urgently needed to minimise adverse environmental and social impacts of water use in Kwale.

It was for this reason that we convened a meeting of key stakeholders and brought to together a wide variety of players in the water sector to share ideas, experiences, challenges and opportunities on how to improve water management and promote integrated water resources management.

Focus on an important river for wildlife

Our conversations, at least for now, are focused on one particular sub-catchment in Kwale called Mkurumudzi River.

This river is particularly important as it supports critical habitats and wildlife in the Shimba Hills ecosystem (where the river originates), more than 6,000 ha of mangroves, the domestic and livestock needs of thousands of people in rural communities, and two large scale industries operating in Kwale (Base Titanium and Kwale International Sugar Company).

Dam under construction © Elias Kimaru / WWFDam under construction to supply new industry with water. © Elias Kimaru / WWF

Representatives from the local community, businesses, government and other organisations attended the meeting. It was the first time that such a diverse group of players – many with conflicting water needs – had come together. So this was a really important first step in improving water management in Kwale.

At the meeting an action plan to improve water management was developed, which the participants committed to implementing.

There’s lots of work still to be done but I’m very optimistic about what we can achieve in 2017. Thank you all for your continuous support to WWF Kenya’s work in Kwale. We value your support and contribution very much.

WWF’s work in Kwale-Kilifi landscape is part of WWF’s Coastal Kenya Programme, which is gratefully supported by players of People’s Postcode LotterySize of Wales and the UK Government through the Department for International Development.

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