Kenya: Community Network for a healthy Athi river
Through pollution and water scarcity, communities along the Kenyan Athi River have learnt the hard way that upstream and downstream communities are inevitably connected. In response to indiscriminate impacts on the environment and people's livelihoods, civil society organisations within the Athi River Basin formed the Athi River Community Network (ARCN).
"The Athi River Basin is degrading rapidly. We need to re-establish our connection to water, and get a sense of responsibility to our rivers. That's why it's a community network; it is people who directly interact with the river. We must manage the river sustainably for our benefit." – Violet Matiru, Millennium Community Development Initiatives (MCDI)
Through the ARCN, civil society organisations and community members have a platform to network, discuss their challenges, and explore opportunities for collaboration. These contribute to mutual capacity development and in creating a sense of solidarity among the people of a shared river basin.
Thanks to interactions among the members of the Athi River Community Network, the ARCN has come to a better understanding of how different localised problems are oftentimes related to overarching institutional problems. Problems on the ground vary from one location to another – including pollution, encroachment of riparian land, and erosion – which may require different types of interventions. Yet, in order to make local interventions possible and fit the needs specific to the context, (local) institutions need to enable communities to actively participate in decision-making processes. Moreover, as local interventions should be in harmony with the carrying capacity of the entire river basin, members of the ARCN underscore that communities' local perspectives and needs should be incorporated in a governance plan for the entire river basin.
Dialogue with government authorities
The ARCN also engages in dialogue with government authorities, who actively participated in ARCN's workshops. During one of the workshops, government officials welcomed contributions by the ARCN for the implementation of the Water Act, which speaks of a decentralised and participatory approach, assisted by Water Resources Users Associations and Basin Water Resources Committees (to be established). Hence, Both ENDS' support to ARCN's endeavour to design and pursue a development path of their own, comes at an opportune moment.
Both ENDS support to ARCN's efforts toward an inclusive river basin approach for the Athi River also includes South-South exchange. Recently, we facilitated such an exchange between the network and Professor Vijay Paranjpye from India, who shared his experiences of using a Negotiated Approach to a river basin in India. Vijay Paranjpye has also been a key contributor to the development of a Negotiated Approach on the basis of already existing local initiatives, which is nicely captured in the book 'Involving Communities'.
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A Negotiated Approach envisages the meaningful and long-term participation of communities in all aspects of managing the water and other natural resources on which their lives depend. It seeks to achieve healthy ecosystems and equitable sharing of benefits among all stakeholders within a river basin. This inclusive way of working is an essential precondition for the Transformative Practices that are promoted by Both ENDS and partners.
All around the world small-scale farmers are using sustainable and inclusive methods to produce food. Working together with nature and each other, they provide their families and communities with sufficient and healthy food. But their production methods are under pressure from large-scale agriculture and the globally dominant system of industrial food production. Together with our partners, Both ENDS is trying to turn the tide in favour of sustainable, local practices that are mostly known as 'agro-ecological' or 'nature-inclusive'. Why are we focusing on these methods? Agro-ecological practices are climate-proof and inclusive and increase the opportunities for communities around the world to produce their food sustainably.
Video / 8 November 2019
The Athi River Community Network is made up of communities who live along the Athi River watershed. Members of the Athi River Community Network promised to join forces with the Friends of Ondiri Wetland to ensure that this critical wetland is restored and conserved for the sake of current and future generations.
News / 19 August 2021
After many years of advocating for strong environmental policies at international platforms such as the UN, Kenyan Violet Matiru asked herself: "How does all this lobbying trickle down to our communities? How does this help our mothers who are still struggling with fetching water and cooking on wood stoves?" This is when she and her colleagues founded MCDI Kenya (Millennium Community Development Initiatives) and started to work with local communities. We talked to her about the historical and current power imbalance in water governance and her efforts to improve water governance in the Athi River basin, that runs all the way from upstream of Nairobi, through the city, into the Indian Ocean.
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External link / 19 June 2020
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