Upper Ewaso Ng'iro Basin Wetlands

Project Title:

Assessment of Ecological Status and Socio-economic Dynamic of Upper Ewaso Ng'iro Basin Wetlands


From: January 2010

To: February 2011

Thematic Area:

Sustainable Natural Resource Management ( Water, Soil and Biodiversity Conservation)

Spatial Area:

Upper Ewaso Ngiro Basin including Nyandarua and Laikipia


Eastern and Southern Africa Partnership programme (ESAPP), University of Nairobi (UoN)

Lead Person(s) & Contacts:


Brief Description

Background and Summary:

The aim of this project was to map wetlands and assess their socio-economic uses, values and functions, ecosystem services they render and threats to their sustainable management. This was in an effort to generate information for guiding the appropriate interventions measures that will facilitate sustained management of these resources for the benefit of local economies.

A total of six wetlands were covered in this study including Ol’Bolossat, Ewaso Narok, Pesi, Marura, Moyok, and Mutara. The main activity in the wetlands is crop farming. The issues emerging from the study include loss of natural wetland vegetation cover to agriculture and settlement activities, decreasing soil fertility, deteriorating crop production, low prices for farm produce, human wildlife conflicts, decreasing river flow discharge among many others.


1. To undertake an inventory of Upper Ewaso Ngiro basin wetlands detailing their bio-physical components, and map land use/cover changes overtime

2. To assess the socio-economic value attached to these wetland, utilisation and conservation initiatives among local community and other stakeholders in the basin

3. Develop a detailed spatial and non-spatial database for the upper Ewaso Ngiro basin wetlands

4. Create awareness on socio-economic, ecological, and conservation status of the wetland and formulate a conservation strategy for the upper Ewaso Ngiro basin wetlands by assessment of various utilisation scenarios.

Methods and Activities:

The project was successfully executed through various stages including reconnaissance visits to the study areas, field surveys, data analysis and database development, awareness creation and data dissemination. The project approach was multidisciplinary involving social economic analysis, ecological analysis and spatial temporal analysis. Social economic data was captured using both structured questionnaires at household level accompanied by field observation. Landcover data was derived using GIS and Remote sensing satellite images and field survey with a total of eight land cover classes identified within the wetlands ecosystems. These classes included Forested areas, Shrublands, Grassland, Sedges, Scattered vegetation, Bare ground, Builtup / Cultivated, Water.

Outputs and Results:

1. Land use Land cover change maps between 1987, 1995 and 2010 with the corresponding attribute statistics.

2. Social economic questionnaires data, Focus Group Discussion data and the corresponding analysis results.

3. Soil and Water sample data and laboratory analysis results

4. A check list of flora and fauna

5. Vegetation sampling data and distribution maps.

6. Satellite images , GIS layers and related attribute database

7. Maps of current extent of the wetlands within the basin

8. Project Report

9. Dissemination Workshop

The project results have shown that over the last 15 years most of the natural vegetation cover has been cleared and agricultural activities have taken over causing wetland degradation. There is need to assess the direct effect of human activities on hydrological regimes. But at the moment human activities are expected to exert greater pressure on available water resources leading to extremely disturbed stream flow with far reaching impacts on downstream areas. The downstream areas already support a thriving tourism industry and provide much needed water to the pastoral communities.


1. Local community, Landuse planners, Water Users Associations

2. Researchers, and Collaborating Institutions

3. Farm and Ranch Managers within the basin

4. Ministry of water & Ministry of Agriculture.



The project has generated data and information that will go a long way in assisting the farmers and other stake holders develop better and sustainable management plans of the wetlands.


The problems facing the North Ewaso Ng’iro drainage wetlands can be viewed in three scenarios.

a.) Scenario ONE - no intervention at all; Considering the present situation if there is no deliberate intervention either from the community or local authority and in default central government these dry land swamp will eventually disappear.

b.) Scenario TWO - total exclusion of people from the wetlands; This would involve the enforcement of the existing legal and institutional arrangement to all un-authorised persons. Implementation of this scenario would involve adequate resources allocation to all concerned government departments. It will be a very unpopular decision considering that the adjacent area is too dry for any viable farming activities.

c.) Scenario THREE - co-ordinated intervention of wetlands restoration and management; This would involve a joint venture between the local community and the authorities to reduce the threat facing respective wetlands. Considering the environmental condition and the changing landuse, the community would have to identify the benefit they draw from the wetland, while the government department give guidance on technical aspects like what area to be protected. The wetland could be zoned to allow multiple uses by different communities. Like a zone for controlled cultivation, grazing and total exclusion of human activities. This would also involve setting up of water abstraction quotas by the community with assistance of the water technical officer. This gives room for dialogue, community management and wetlands restoration.

Lessons Learned:

One main lesson learned was the fact that farmers don’t know the swamp land belongs to the Government. In terms of the legal status, many farmers claim to hold title deeds for the land but which raise some questions since individuals cannot hold title for trust land or wetland areas. This is mainly due to the method used for land acquisition either through chiefs and other administrators.

To the local communities the main economic importance of wetlands has traditionally been seen in terms of the commercial extraction of resources. There is need to educate the community on the importance of conservation of the wetlands through sustainable use and management. Alternative land use activities that demand less water will need to identified and introduced to the community.


The knowledge base of wetlands status and utilization has improved through creation of databases from which information can be derived and disseminated for management purpose.

The community and policy makers have been empowered through dissemination workshops and they are expected to influence the policy making process through the knowledge gained.





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