Mara River BasinExpedition

Rain in the Mau Forest

Expedition 2012: The Mau Forest,
Headwaters of the Mara River Basin

Team Leader: NWNL Director Alison M. Jones

Guides: Jacob Mwanduka of FOMAWA, Andrew Nightingale as consultant, Paul Njenga as driver

THE MARA RIVER BASIN: One million Kenyans and Tanzanians, as well as 2 million wildebeest and zebra, depend on the Mara River; but in 2009 it was only ankle-deep for the first time in memory. In 2009 NWNL conducted its “Length of the Mara River Expedition” exploring impacts of water extraction for irrigation, pollution from effluent and mining, and increases in extreme droughts and floods. The expedition’s main focus however was The Mau Forest – Kenya’s largest watershed (almost a million acres/ 400,000 ha) and headwaters for the Mara and 10 other major rivers. In the last decade, 25% loss of the forest has gone, due to illegal logging and increasing settlement. This has decreased rainfall and water retention, leaving rivers and up to 10 million people and scores of wild animals with less water. Kenya and UNEP initiated a Mau Forest Restoration Task Force in Sept. 2008 that is still continuing efforts to reverse degradation of the Mau.

Aerial view of illegal settlement in forest

EXPEDITION METHODOLOGY: This expedition, using NWNL scientific research, will add still and video documentation to our 2009 documentation and 10-minute video. NWNL will focus on recent reforestation efforts and resettlement of forest residents. NWNL will interview stakeholders and stewards involved in tree planting, resettlement and biodiversity impacts, as well as indigenous Ogiek residents and conservationists advocating fencing of this critical water tower. Following the expedition, resulting materials will be publicized via Internet and print media, lectures and exhibits. Expedition results will be shared with other NWNL watersheds as a reference for global solutions and used as educational tools.

EXPEDITION GOALS: NWNL will seek clarification on the following current and future challenges:

• Local and national support for the government’s mandate to the Mau Forest Restoration Secretariat

• Potential political and/or ethnic conflict over the eviction and compensation process

• Alternative, sustainable livelihoods for evictees such as bamboo forestry and honey production

• The possible need to fence the Mau Forest following resettlement of all its residents to prevent any future human destruction of this critical water tower

Explorers Club

Global Info


EXPEDITION ENDORSEMENTS: NWNL thanks those who endorsed this expedition; generous supporters who donated funds and in-kind contributors, particularly James Robertson of Ker & Downey Safaris and Andrew Nightingale of Kembu Cottages. WingsWorld Quest has been fiscal sponsor for No Water No Life since 2007.