March 7, 2011 by
The last two months have been a busy time for PRESA at our site in Sasumua (central Kenya), as we discuss with stakeholders, including the local community, on how a payments for environmental services scheme should work.
A series of meetings and site visits have been held to talk about farmers’ interests, government policy and private sector concerns. This has helped PRESA understand the issues that are important to each stakeholder.
The main realization from these discussions is that farmers and water sector regulators generally have a positive view on establishing a payments scheme for watershed services at Sasumua. On the other hand, the main buyer of watershed services, which in this case is the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, has reservations though it remains committed to catchment conservation.
At a meeting in January 2011 held at the Nairobi Water Company’s headquarters in Nairobi, PRESA argued that sound catchment management through a reward for environmental services scheme could reduce the costs of purifying water. The cost savings could be used to reward and motivate farmers to engage in catchment conservation.
The Nairobi Water Company’s main concern is that it is already paying water fees to the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), which in turn is expected to utilize the funds in catchment management. Kenya’s Water Act, which became law in 2002, places the responsibility for water catchment conservation on WRMA.
A few weeks later, in February 2011, PRESA met officials of the Sasumua Water Resources Users’ Association (WRUA) to explore opportunities for cooperation. The WRUA Chairman, Isaac Muraguri, said that one way for the Nairobi Water Company to assist the local community is by providing tools for harvesting and storing rain water. In response to this, Professor Mwangi Gathenya, a visiting scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre, said that the WRUA and PRESA should jointly propose to Nairobi Water that the company supplies water tanks to farmers who implement land conservation measures.
From their own experience, the WRUA officials said that the main challenge likely to be faced by a rewards for environmental services scheme would be in managing high expectations from the community, which may think that there is a lot of money available. However, farmers would be willing to participate as long as they understand the scheme.
Wanjiku Migwi, representing the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), said that sustainable land management practices should make economic sense to the farmer. “If farmers are sensitized adequately, they can accept to participate in a rewards for environmental services scheme,” said Wanjiku, “and it will also encourage them to stop destructive activities, such as cultivating on riverbanks.
Incidentally, still in February, PRESA witnessed a group of farmers at Sasumua launch an initiative for environmental conservation. This particular group has been actively involved in PRESA research activities and, with time, have gained an appreciation of the ecosystem’s importance. “The knowledge we have gained from PRESA made us realize that we have to take responsibility for conserving our land,” explained Sammy Mbage Wanyeki, the group’s chairman.
On 22nd February, PRESA invited officials from the Sasumua WRUA, the Nairobi Water Company, the Water Resources Management Authority and the Water Services Trust Fund for a roundtable discussion on how to go about rewarding upland farmers for watershed services in Sasumua.
According to researchers from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), agricultural best management practices, such as terraces, contour farming, grass filter strips and grass waterways, can enhance water quality and flow.
Estimated costs for 1,000 farmers implementing the proposed best management practices are about 88 million Kenya Shillings (US$1.1 million). Prof Gathenya suggested that farmers provide labour during implementation while Nairobi Water Company provides materials and pays for technical staff. The implementation can be spread out over 5 years so as not to place a financial strain on the water company.
PRESA could provide technical support to the Sasumua WRUA in submitting a reward for environmental services proposal for possible funding by the Water Resources Management Authority and the Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF).
Research has shown that, apart from intensive agriculture, the Sasumua catchment is also experiencing fairly rapid growth of urban areas. Patrick Githinji, Environment and Conservation Coordinator at the Nairobi Water Company, said that the National Environment Management Authority should be included as a stakeholder because it has the legal mandate to enforce laws regarding urban waste generated by roadside garages, market centres, food processing industries and urban residential areas.
There is growing interest in payments and rewards for environmental services as a means of encouraging communities to use their environment sustainably. PRESA will continue generating relevant knowledge as well as getting communities and policy makers to the discussion table.
For more photos of the events, please click on the following links: