Water is one of the most important resources for man’s survival and it is essential to human beings and all forms of life.
It is necessary for sustainable development, poverty eradication, reproductive and maternal health, and in combating diseases. Unfortunately, one-third of the world’s population experiences some kind of physical or economic water scarcity.
Due to increasing demand for water from different sectors such as industry, agriculture, power generation, domestic use and the environment, it is increasingly difficult for poor people to access the resource for productive, consumptive and social use.
In Kajiado, Nkurruman and Entasopia schemes in the western region, and Rombo irrigation schemes in the south, were once the region’s pride in food production.
The upper belt of Kimana, Illasit and the region around Loitokitok used to produce thousands of tons in maize and beans, but that is no more.
Climatic weather changes and man-made strain on the land and wanton cutting down of trees appear to have chased away rains.
Ngong Hills, before and soon after Kenya attained independence, was the region’s water tower that fed tens of streams that flow into Athi River.
The natural forest that engulfed the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, on the Kenyan side is no more and the little water from the melting ice on the mountain is no longer clean for human consumption.
This is the reason why Kajiado nominated MCA, Mercy Gathu, has been fighting a hard battle against wanton destruction of the county’s water catchment areas.
Dubbed, Kajiado’s Wangare Maathai, Gathu has tried all means to convince the residents in Kajiado against wanton cutting of trees for purposes of burning charcoal but because of the people involved, she has never succeeded.
Gathu, who has been a resident of Keekonyokie Ward in Kajiado West, has fresh memories of the cool air that used to come down to the plains from Ngong Hills in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
She also remembers vividly how spring water used to flow downstream from the hills for domestic and livestock use.
“We could drink the clean water without fear of diseases. Today, everything has changed for the worse. Whenever it rains in Ngong, the streams are full of mud carried downstream through bare ground,” laments Gathu.
The politician went an extra mile at the assembly and privately sponsored a bill, The Kajiado County, Conservation of Water Catchment Areas Bill, 2016.
However, the bill, amongst the Kajiado County Flag, Emblem and Names Bills were forwarded to the government printer on May 6, 2016 by deputy clerk Leboo Saisa. The latter three came back and have already been passed into law but Hon. Gathu’s private members’ bill has not been heard of.
Though her effort, she has faced numerous resistance, she is still very determined to win this battle of reclaiming the lost glory of the Kajiado County’s catchment areas.
Gathu suggests that Kajiado county residents should be trained on how to trap storm water using earth dams. This water could be used for domestic, livestock and other farming activities.
“The county and the national governments have the power and resource to zone off grazing areas so that during rainy seasons, grass is grown and harvested for use during dry spell by livestock farmers,” she suggested.
In the early 1990s farmers in Nkurruman irrigation scheme alone used to produce thousands of tonnes of assorted horticultural products ranging from mangoes, bananas, tomatoes, onions, pawpaws and water melons.
Today, the entire scheme can hardly produce a quarter of the same per week because of the diminishing water resources and unpredictable climate.
Kajiado County Agricultural records show that Entasopia irrigation scheme in Shompole Group Ranch and Nkurruman irrigation scheme in Olkiramatian Group Ranch have the capacity to feed the entire Kajiado West sub county if water and land resources are managed properly.
The two irrigation schemes, Entasopia in Shompole and Nkurruman in Olkiramatian, which rely on water from Entasopia and Oloibortoto rivers which have towers in Ilchoroi and Empurputia hills, respectfully in Narok County, are experiencing low water flow.
Many other major water projects and agricultural activities in this county are faced with eventual closure if water catchment areas are not restored and secured.
“The county and the national governments have the power and a resource to zone off grazing areas so that during rainy season, grass is cut for use during dry spell by livestock farmers,” she suggested.
Over grazing in most parts of the county has strained the land further, according to local agricultural experts.
In the early 1990s farmers in Nkurruman irrigation scheme alone used to produce 10, 000 tonnes of assorted horticultural products ranging from mangoes, bananas, tomatoes, onions, papaws and water melon.
Today, the entire scheme can hardly produce 4 tonnes of the same per week because of the diminishing water resources and failure by farmers to unite and form a formidable association to help market their products.