Planting trees to protect water and increase climate resilience

As a young boy, 55-year-old Silvan Kados recalls growing up in the rural village of Korondo in Migori County. Lush vegetation covered the area, streams babbled, and farmers grew plenty of vegetables each year to sustain themselves. Silvan’s parents were peasant farmers and knew the right times to plant based on the weather patterns.

Over the years, his village has transformed. Farmers have cut down trees for fuel and larger farm plots, degrading the land. Longer, hotter periods of drought have led to unproductive harvests and dry streambeds. Farmers who had mastered the art of weather prediction were left at the mercy of luck. Korondo village was now experiencing the impacts of climate change.

“It is from the changing life in the village that I had to try and address the situation in my own small way,” says Kados. In 2006, he formed the 32-member Korondo Nyasare group with the sole aim of planting trees in degraded areas. Native, drought-tolerant trees can reduce the effects of climate change, capturing water underground, cooling the air and ground temperature and improving water quality. “We had a small tree nursery from which we raised seedlings and donated them to villagers to encourage people to plant them on their farms,” he remembers.

In 2016, the Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) project partnered with the Korondo Nyasare group to form the Korondo Nyasare Water Resource Users Association (WRUA). WRUAs are community-led efforts to protect environmental resources – such as water sources, soil or green spaces – on which the community relies.  On registration as a WRUA, they gained a legal mandate to perform conservation duties within their jurisdiction. KIWASH supported the WRUA by establishing a formal tree nursery with native, drought-tolerant seedlings. KIWASH also helped Korondo Nyasare conduct a water resource mapping survey which identified 67 springs under their catchment area. Of those 67, KIWASH supported protection of five springs aimed at improving safe water access bringing to eight number of protected springs under the WRUA. KIWASH worked with the WRUA to construct spring boxes, stone pitching on the drainage, fencing and afforestation to protect five additional springs.  Finally, KIWASH trained the committee members on governance, water security, nursery management and integrity.

The area is gradually gaining its lost tree cover, and more people are joining the WRUA to help conserve their natural resources. “Since KIWASH started supporting us, we grew 12,000 seedlings during the 2018 planting season,” explains Kados. While some of the seedlings are sold to government and private institutions, about 90 percent of seedlings were donated to neighboring community members. “The drastic negative environmental impacts in our area made me embrace tree planting. As a result, I have planted over 250 trees in my farm,” says Pamela Nyamusi a resident of Korondo Village. KIWASH has also worked to cultivate good working relationships between the WRUA and government agencies in Migori County. After their training on governance and nursery management, the WRUA expanded to cover three sub-counties of Uriri, Nyatike and Suna West, and its membership grew to 240 members.

KIWASH’s environmental sustainability efforts focus on expanding source water quality protection, increasing climate change resiliency in drinking water source planning, and supporting more WRUAs as they grow in their abilities to sustainably run environmental conservation efforts. KIWASH is working with 28 WRUAs across eight counties in Kenya, which has led to 50,000 drought-tolerant seedlings being planted within the last year alone. 

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