Piloting PES in the Mara River Basin



Posted on 20 June 2014  | 
Heavy amounts of silt collect in a dam
Poor agricultural practices in the Mara River Basin have led to the washing away of top soil as is seen in this image
© Robert MagoriEnlarge
WWF in the Mara River basin is piloting a financial mechanism that is expected to boost sustainability of watershed management initiatives in the basin.

Payment for Environmental Services (PES) is the practice of offering incentives to farmers or landowners in exchange of managing their land to provide an ecological service. In the case of the Mara River Basin, the ecological services will arise from a well-managed watershed, and hence PES in this case can be referred to as ‘payment for watershed services’.

WWF conducted key studies to build a business case for the implementation of PES in the Mara River basin. Four studies were undertaken; a hydrology study to determine and locate the core hydrological problem in the basin, a cost-benefit analysis to establish the costs and benefits for buyers and sellers of proposed interventions vis-a-vis current practices, a livelihoods study to obtain socio-economic information on the potential water service providers and recipients, and a policy and legal study to consider the policy, legal and institutional frameworks in support of PES.

The PES scheme in the expansive Mara River Basin is being piloted in one of the sub-catchments of the Mara; the Nyangores River, with a view of rolling out a basin-wide PES scheme once this pilot proves successful. So far, potential and willing buyers have been identified in this sub-catchment; the Tenwek Mission Hospital (that heavily relies on the Nyangores River for electricity generation), and Tirgaga and Stegro tea factories (that rely on the Nyangores River for water supply). PES is vital to these buyers as Tenwek Mission Hospital has to desilt their mini hydro-electric dam once a year and spends as much as KES 2.1 million anually and in the case of Tirgaga tea factory, KES 60,000 a month is spent to cleanse the water they get from the heavily silted Nyangores River. PES for these buyers is therefore a necessity and not just a novel idea.

WWF and key partners have identified a hotspot in the upper catchment of the Nyangores tributary that is in urgent need of rehabilitation and significantly contributes to the high sediment load of the Nyangores River; which is more than double the tolerable rate ( it is currently at 25 tonnes per hectare annually compared to the tolerable rate of 11.2 tonnes per hectare annually). The land-owners in this upper catchment are exclusively small scale farmers from four villages, who have now been organized into four Catchment Management Groups (CMGs). These smale scale farmers will be provided with non-financial incentives that will see them practice better soil and enviromental management.

The buyers and sellers in this PES scheme have been linked to the Nyangores Water Resources Users’ Association (WRUA). In this arrangement, the Nyangores WRUA represents the CMGs and has the task of negotiating with each buyer on the incentives to be provided. Once the incentives have been agreed upon, the Nyangores WRUA will disburse the agreed incentives to the farmers through the CMGs based on clearly stated conditions.

It is anticipated that with the success of this PES scheme, the Mara River will have improved water quality as well as improved flow regime that will catalyze sustainable watersheds management and create a win-win situation between the community (the land-owners) and the private sector partners. Furthermore, the upstream farmers will see an improvement in livelihoods as slow down of soil erosion and reverse of forest loss will lead to an increase in agricultural productivity.

Heavy amounts of silt collect in a dam
Poor agricultural practices in the Mara River Basin have led to the washing away of top soil as is seen in this image
© Robert Magori Enlarge

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