Busia is one of the least forested counties in Kenya despite receiving substantial amounts of rainfall. According to the National Environmental Complaints Committee, (a body charged with the task of investigating complaints regarding the condition of the environment in Kenya and suspected cases of environmental degradation) deforestation and sand harvesting have led to environmental degradation in the county. This is why KIWASH is collaborating with Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs), communities, county governments and water service providers to increase the forest cover and conserve spring catchments.
In 2017, KIWASH mapped out water resources in Busia County to locate significant drinking water sources and identify the threats to those sources, such as soil erosion or surface runoff pollution. KIWASH then worked with the WRUAs to plant trees and rehabilitate degraded areas around springs and streams to stabilize soils and protect water sources for the communities.
Ikonza is one such water source that was recently protected and rehabilitated. The spring was initially exposed to sediment pollution and fecal contamination. KIWASH worked with the Ikonza WRUA to build a concrete platform around the spring and plant seedlings of indigenous tree species around the water source. Indigenous trees are usually draught-resistant and help to trap water in the soil and filter pollutants from the surface from entering the water supply underground. Alongside the trees, they planted fruit trees that, once mature, will provide a source of income for the water association.
Taken together across the nine project counties, KIWASH has supported the planting of 29,400 trees at 68 sites to protect springs and wetlands and rehabilitate native forests. These improvements will benefit 13,724 households comprising more than 68,600 people.
Yet in the face of climate change, these water sources could still be at risk. To mitigate this, KIWASH held training sessions with county governments and institutions, such as water utilities and water services providers, to incorporate climate change information in water security planning, source water protection, infrastructure design and sanitation improvements. So far, at least 30 institutions have undergone the first phase of capacity building, including 10 WRUAs comprised of more than 840 community members. These trainings will serve as building blocks to developing comprehensive climate adaptation and resilience plans for communities in draught-prone areas.