Mara River and Sondu-Miriu River Basin

The community-based Mara River Water Users Association (Mara River WUA) in western Kenya won the 2013 Thiess International Riverprize for overcoming significant challenges and successfully collaborating with farmers, community groups, NGOs, consultants and many other stakeholders to implement the Mara River Environmental Management Initiative. Following their win, Mara River WUA established a Twinning relationship with the neighbouring Sondu-Miriu River Basin. The objective of the Twinning partnership was to assess the progress of implementing the recently established Sondu Basin Catchment Management plan and organise field visits to engage with local community members and stakeholders.

The Sondu-Miriu River Basin originates from the western slopes of the Mau Escarpment, flowing through a narrow gorge before entering the floodplains of Nyakwere and eventually Lake Victoria, 22km south of Kisumu City. It’s the fourth largest Kenyan river basin flowing into Lake Victoria and spans 3,470 km2. One of the main problems identified during the preparation of the Sondu Basin Catchment Management Plan was the siltation coming from unsustainable farming and land use practices. Other challenges included poor institutional frameworks, lack of finances to implement river restoration and catchment degradation from deforestation resulting in flash flooding in the lower basin.

The Mara Sondu Twinning Initiative enabled a mutually beneficial platform to achieve the following:

  • Identification of riverine conservation hot spots including the rehabilitation of a 25km river reach;
  • Formation of a Community Forest Association and the implementation of a collaborative 20-hectare forest rehabilitation project in the upper catchment;
  • Exchange visits, workshops and training sessions on water resource governance;
  • Conducting water quality and quantity monitoring with aims of improving farming practices to maximise soil and water retention and reducing siltation;
  • Mara River WUA donated a water quality monitoring kit and trained Sondu River Basin representatives to carry out monitoring; and
  • Identification of farms to be used as a knowledge sharing hubs for other community members in the area.
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