Africa – The forested mountains of East Africa deserve their ‘water towers’ moniker. Their springs and streams feed a number of major rivers and lakes, nourishing millions of people and countless ecosystems downstream.
But the functionality of these ‘water towers’ is under threat due to deforestation, land conversion, charcoal burning and encroachment for settlement. Without consistent forest cover, streams and rivers can diminish and dry up, and the quality of the remaining water degrade.
To preserve the health of these ecosystems and the livelihoods of those who rely on them, it’s clear that we can’t look at either the forests or the water catchments in isolation. But they’re often managed separately, meaning well-meaning interest groups can find themselves at cross purposes.
In Kenya’s Rift Valley region, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is working with communities in the Mau Forest Complex and the Mt Elgon Forest to help bridge these gaps. They’ve brought together local Community Forest Associations (CFAs) and Water Resource User Associations (WRUAs) to explore ways they might manage their resources more successfully – and sustainably – together.