Challenges and Opportunities of Participatory Management of Upland Wetland in Kiambu County, Kenya
Mwaura, Samuel Kinyariro
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Wetlands are continuously degraded via agricultural activities, pollution and settlement. In Lari sub-county for example, increase in population pressure, decline in soil fertility, unreliable rainfall plus quest for food security is forcing the farmers to encroach on the seemed idle Upland wetland. Opportunity for conservation of this wetland lies on the participatory approaches that can be embraced at local level helping in conservation of this vital natural resource. Ruiru river main water comes from Upland wetland which is harvested by Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company in Githunguri sub-county at Ruiru dam. The wetland plus Kikuyu east escarpment forms part of catchment area that amounts to 6680 ha. The research is of vital importance as the water company lacks in depth information about its catchment areas, leading to their encroachment and eventually water rationing in Nairobi city. The objectives of this study were to document causes of Upland wetland degradation, assess extent of community participation, and investigate level of awareness on wetland importance and possible contribution of farmer‟s involvement on catchment management. Sampling methods used to select the study units included stratified and random sampling where farmers and Ruiru dam workers were issued with questionnaire. Purposive sampling was used to select WARMA manager, WRUA officials and six elderly who were interviewed. A total of 40 farmers from Lari 107 settlement scheme where wetland is located and 4 Ruiru dam workers were issued with questionnaire. Data analysis was done using Chi-square, T-test and SPSS computer packages. The percentages for qualitative data were presented using tables, bar charts and pie charts. Mapping of the wetland was done using GIS and Google Earth. The study found that Upland wetland total cover area is 129.6 Ha after getting reduced by 105.4. Ha for the last thirty years due to encroachment. The study revealed that 65% of the respondents had stayed in the area for more than 20yrs. Farmers engage in wetland drainage mostly for provision of food (50%), generate income (25%) while 10% did it to control water borne diseases. Level of participation was negligible with only 2.5% of respondents having ever participated in wetlands conservation. Community based conservation groups such as WRUA were lacking in this area. Respondents amounting to 87% were not aware of conservation bodies such as WRMA or their activities. Environmental impacts were: biodiversity loss, destruction of ornithology habitats and loss of hydro botanical species. Social impacts were: eruption of water borne diseases such as typhoid, water pollution and weak community conservation infrastructure. 87.5% indicated that lack of institutional support from Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company and Water Resource Management Authority to fund, educate and assist local people in catchment conservation is the major cause of poor participatory Thus using one sample t-test on the level of participation t-56.00, df=39, p=0.001, there was a significantly low level of participation in management at Ruiru river source wetland. However, there is an opportunity for community involvement in that majority of residents were ready to conserve(X2=0.127, p=0.001). Formation of community based conservation groups such as Water Resource Users Association, Riparian Land Owners Association and Catchment Area Advisory Committee were proposed as major solutions to the problems. Devolution of water resources was also proposed as a way of ensuring local people gets some benefits from water sale to city residents. Such efforts will ensure adequate water supply to Nairobi city and surrounding satellite towns.