The Nature Conservancy and its partners have unveiled a new plan to restore the catchment areas in the River Yala Basin as part of its efforts to enhance the availability and quality of water for communities in the area.

The partners include Women in Water and Natural Resource Conservation, Kapsabet Nandi and Water Sanitation Company and Mama Doing Good among others.

The plan will be implemented through the water fund model pioneered by The Nature Conservancy, which brings together diverse water users from public and private sectors, and civil society to jointly invest in targeted scientifically guided interventions to conserve the water. This has seen the creation of the River Yala Water Fund, the world’s first women-led water fund, in collaboration with Women in Water and Natural Resources Conservation, to spearhead the plan.

The River Yala Water Fund will work with 10,000 smallholder farmers in the five counties (Nandi, Vihiga, Kakamega, Siaya, Bungoma), through which the River Yala flows.

It will support a variety of activities, including tree-growing campaigns to grow beneficial fruit, fodder, and nut trees while adopting rainwater harvesting, use of sustainable agricultural practices, training and governance establishment for the water fund, freshwater ecology surveys, and river water quality monitoring.

Over 100 fruit gardens will also be set up in schools within the watershed, and thousands of women mobilized into conservation to reap from the sale of tree seedlings and fruits. This is geared towards improving water security, conserving biodiversity, and supporting resilient livelihoods.

The Nature Conservancy’s Africa Regional Managing Director, Mr. Ademola Ajagbe said, “We all need to work together to restore and protect our water sources that are threatened by forest degradation and increased agricultural activity while supporting livelihoods and improving food and water security. The water fund model provides an opportunity to do this collaboratively, through truly African solutions that marry rigorous nature-based approaches with traditional, sustainable African practices.”

River Yala Water Fund brings to three the number of active water funds in Kenya, including – Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund, which was the first water fund in Africa, and Eldoret-Iten Water Fund.

Through the Upper-Tana Nairobi Water Fund, 322 kilometers of riparian lands have been conserved and 4 million trees are growing. The Eldoret-Iten Water Fund in its first year of implementation has grown 850,000 tree seedlings which include 250,000 fruit trees to support community livelihoods benefitting 10,000 households and promoted water harvesting by establishing 400 water pans.