Kenyan authorities are caught between reviving a dying lake and ensuring livelihood to farmers living in its catchment
in its catchment
FOR THREE decades, James Wainana has grown maize and vegetables along Ol’ Bolossat—the only lake in the fertile Central Highlands of Kenya. But today he is no longer sure of investing in his four-hectare (ha) farmland. Like him, more than 0.56 million farmers, who live in the catchment area of the lake, are anxious because of a plan to conserve the lake.
In June 2014, Waithaka Mwangi, governor of the Nyandarua County, announced the lake will be developed as a tourist destination. The revenue earned from tourism would be spent to revive the lake, which is a habitat for hippopotamus and many birds, and the source of river Ewaso Nyiro, the third longest in Kenya (see ‘Land of beauty and bounty’, p32). The government believes Ol’ Bolossat has degraded due to a sharp increase in human population and unchecked farming—Nyandarua is known as the bread basket of Kenya. Farmers divert water from streams and springs flowing into the lake to irrigate crops. Continued tilling of land is silting the lake, while pesticides are polluting the water. Farmers’ livestock also compete for pastures with hippos.
The tourism project requires the county government to acquire farmland and plots encroaching upon the catchment and riparian areas of the lake, which is protected under the Water Act, 2002. But the authorities are not sure which plots to acquire and how to resettle the farmers. This is because the 43-km-long lake is yet to be gaz-
Farmers' livestock compete with hippopotamus for pastures around lake Ol' Bolossat