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Assessment of Ecological Status and Socio-economic Dynamics of Upper Ewaso Ng’iro Basin Wetlands

Upper Ewaso Ng’iro Basin stretches from a semi-humid area at the foot of Aberdare ranges and Mt Kenya through the arid regions of Laikipia County (eco-climatic zone 3), to the more arid Shamburg and Isiolo regions (eco-climatic zone 4). The nature of the physiographic features that are characterised by plateau formation has encouraged wetland formation along the Ewaso Ng’iro river artery. The upper most wetland is the Ol Bolossat which forms the headwaters of all important Ewaso Ng’iro river, which receives water from rivers draining from both Mt Kenya and Aberdare ranges.

Historically, this basin has been used by nomadic pastoralist up to the early part of the 20th century, when the area was occupied by white colonial farmers. Upon independence in the 1960s, the land was sub-divided into small scale farms which were mainly bought by farming communities from central Kenya. Due to the aridity of the region, this set the stage for wetland conversion since the adjacent area is too dry for farming. Currently the wetlands form important livelihood support system mainly for the farming communities. Farming is mainly geared towards meeting a combination of domestic food and income generation through horticultural crops, the later a recent development. Cultivation is done through irrigation using open canal and facilitated by loosely connected pipes with water pumping being done by pumps of various horse power. Horticultural farming is mainly characterised by huge loses throughout the year with middlemen controlling over 80% of market access. This scenario is evident from the poor livelihood status in terms of types of housing and wide spread poor health conditions related to poor sanitation and water contamination. The farmers are banked rolled by horticultural companies and banks hence high presence of liquid cash but low or no profits. Apart from farming the wetland area form an important grazing area for both the local community and outsiders especially from the arid northern region who come to the south for pasture in the dry months.

Although some of the wetlands were not initially allocated as farming area, all the wetlands have been parcelled out with the exception of Ol Bolossat. This is the only wetland with a management plan in the basin. For example, land allocation in Ewaso Narok has been undertaken by the provincial administration, while in Marura, the earliest (1970s) occupied wetland settlement was done by central government and titles have been issued. Similarly in Pesi, Mutara and Moyok, the people alleged that land buying companies allocated land in the wetland and some people have titles. {Download to Read More}