The World Water Week celebration starts Monday, August 26. This year’s theme focuses on “the very basis of our existence: the ecosystems on which all life depends, and the critical role of water in their functions”.
In Kenya, Lake Naivasha basin joins the rest of the world to share water blindness concerns-water stress and shared water risks, and green business initiatives that promote inclusive water stewardship.
Lake Naivasha basin is a mosaic of ecosystems: Aberdares Forest, one of the key important water sources in Kenya, Hell’s Gate National Park, the lake proper, which is one of the only two freshwater lakes in the Rift Valley, Kenya.
The lake is an important bird area (IBA) and was designated in 1995 as a wetland of international importance.
In terms of economic importance, the Lake Naivasha Basin is the hub of the Kenya’s cut flower industry.
It is estimated that the basin produces about 70 per cent of the country’s floriculture and contributing to almost 1.3 per cent of the country Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Horticultural Crop Directorate (HCD) provisional statistics in 2017 on the floriculture industry indicates that the sector earned Sh82.25 billion.
Ironically and from an environmental perspective, this is massive water footprint. It is estimated that a single rose takes around 10 litres of water to produce and significant amount of water is also lost in the several billions of rose stems exported from the basin. An intriguing scenario, when you take cognizance of the fact that Lake Naivasha, like the rest of the country, is characterised as water-scarce basin.
Inappropriate land use practices by mainly small-scale farmers in the upper and middle catchments have continued to impact negatively on both water quantity and quality.
The degradation of the catchment and in particular, destruction of forests, is causing water stress, gradually manifesting itself in the river flows and fluctuating Lake Naivasha water levels.
These, if left unabated, are bound to impact on economic growth, biodiversity and key ecosystem services and functions, and ultimately the general human well-being.
Therefore, there need for public-private partnerships to promote water stewardship and address the water related risks in Naivasha has never been greater.
One group that is yet to effectively take up their responsibility in reducing water stress and risks in the basin are the small farm holders.
In this regard, WWF-Kenya through the European Union funded Switch Africa Green phase II “Green Horticulture at Lake Naivasha (Goalan) project is taking the lead and has led to partnering with the German based Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP) on a plan to working with Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises in the basin to shift towards sustainable consumption and production and at the same time providing green jobs.
The project is well aligned with the recently launched Kenya GESIP (Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan-2016-2030), which is a commitment by Kenya towards sustainable development, transit to green economy and realisation of Vision 2030.
The project considers the fact that the youth constitutes well more than 60 per cent of Kenya’s estimated 48 million people and the majority is either unemployed or underemployed.
Despite the agriculture sector contributing 26 per cent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 27 per cent of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors, majority of the Kenyan youth have remained aloof and instead continue migrate from rural areas to the cities seeking for “better and cleaner” job opportunities.
The Goalan project will promote the development of the horticulture sector as a driver for adoption of resource efficient and green practices to minimise pressure or impacts on the environment while ensuring inclusion of the youth and women, and the general public in concerted efforts towards all-inclusive water stewardship in Naivasha and beyond.
William O. Ojwang,WWF Kenya, regional programme manager for Africa Rift Lakes