Workshop on Overcoming the Challenges of Land Use Changes in the Transboundary Mara Basin

The Research Workshop: “Overcoming the Challenges of Land Use Changes in the Transboundary Mara Basin” took place from the 21st to the 25th of November in the Narok County, one of the counties relating to the Mara River Basin. The workshop is one of this year’s research measures supported by CNRD and was organized by Prof. Dr. James B. Kung’u from the Kenyatta University and Dr. Rui Pedroso from the TH Köln. The Mara River Basin is a transboundary basin shared between Kenya and Tanzania. The catchment area of the basin is ca. 13,750 km². The upper part is 8,941 km² large and located in Kenya making about 65% of the whole basin. The lower part is located in Tanzania with an area of ca. 4,809 km², which is about 35% of the whole basin. It is the lifeline to the Maasai Mara and Serengeti Game reserves, world-famous for their rich biodiversity. Mara River plays a very important ecological role, especially during the annual wildlife migration between the two parks. Mara River also supports very rich natural forests at its source on the Mau Escarpment, large-scale mechanized farming, smallholder subsistence farms, communal pastoral grazing lands and some wetlands. The river drains into the Lake Victoria and ultimately forms the upper catchments of the Nile Basin. The Mara basin is considered to be one of the more serene sub-catchments of the Lake Victoria basin. This perception notwithstanding, there is growing evidence of unprecedented land use change in the upper catchments, resulting from deforestation affecting the headwaters, while current privatization of pastoral lands is attracting immigrants to the watershed with the population growth reaching 7% annually. This deterioration from the “pristine” catchment affects the hydrology of the Mara river and its environments, with great adverse impacts on wildlife and humans. There is need to determine the impacts of land use change on the Mara basin, consequent impacts on the flow regimes of the river and to identify solutions for overcoming the challenges of the land use change. The proposed research workshop will bring stakeholders together to identify the challenges and develop a research proposal for the Mara basin.

Researchers from different organizations such as Kenyatta University, ITT TH Köln, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, World Agroforestry Centre, Maasai Mara University, UNEP, Kenya Forestry Service, Narok County government and NGOs were brought together to identify the challenges and to give advice on the way forward. Various research methods and tools for the study were discussed to identify changes in land use/cover, hydrology and hydrochemistry impacts. Another focus of the workshop was the identification and discussion of the most suitable landscape rehabilitation methods, their potential impacts on the watershed services and involved costs.