On the shores of Lake Narasha, nestled within the landscapes of Uasin Gishu and Baringo County, a significant gathering unfolded on World Wetlands Day. It was a day to honour and celebrate the invaluable ecosystems that wetlands provide and to reaffirm commitment to their restoration and conservation.
Leading the ceremony was Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry, Hon. Soipan Tuya, embodying the government's dedication to environmental preservation. Alongside her stood Environment and Climate Change PS Eng. Festus Ng'eno, a strong advocate for sustainable development. The event, organised by NEMA and supported by Uasin Gishu County leadership led by Governor Dr. Jonathan Bii and Senator Jackson Mandago, drew a distinguished assembly of government leaders and other private stakeholders.
Among them were Hon. Julius Rutto, the esteemed MP of Kesses Constituency, and Hon. Musa Sirma, representing the neighbouring Eldama Ravine Constituency. The presence of members from the National Assembly Committee on Environment, Forestry, and Mining underscored the national significance of the occasion.
As the ceremony began, CS Hon. Soipan Tuya, flanked by Governor Bii, officially commissioned the fencing of Lake Narasha/Timboroa Dam. This critical step was pivotal in protecting the wetland from encroachment and littering, ensuring its natural regeneration and enhancing its benefits for surrounding communities.
The CS stated that NEMA's effort to conserve wetlands is giving very promising results. She gave examples of two wetlands that have regenerated in Chalbi after NEMA’s intervention to fence including Toniqo and Horri Ghuda as well as Kalacha. Fencing is critical as it protects the wetlands from human and animal encroachment.
In his poignant address, NEMA Director General, Mamo B. Mamo, EBS underscored the importance of wetlands, highlighting the conservation efforts undertaken across the country. The strategic restoration initiatives, guided by comprehensive policy frameworks, aimed to safeguard these vital ecosystems and raise awareness among communities.
"NEMA has mapped out 10,000 wetlands countrywide -the conservation of these wetlands has been guided by various wetlands restoration policy frameworks developed by the Authority and stakeholders. Moreover, the Wetlands and ecosystem restoration strategy seeks to protect the wetlands through fencing them and creation of awareness to help Communities protect wetlands," NEMA DG stated.
The DG informed the gathering that NEMA has developed robust environmental framework to manage wetlands including; wetlands regulations, Wetlands management plans, National Marine Litter Action Plan among others.
Echoing these sentiments, NEMA Chairman Emilio Mugo emphasised the transformative impact of wetlands and ecosystem restoration efforts. The commitment of NEMA to implement restoration strategies nationwide resonated strongly, emphasising community involvement as integral to success. The chairman added that rehabilitation of wetlands is a great achievement for NEMA. He noted that landscapes and ecosystem restoration efforts has impacted the environment countrywide. As the NEMA board, we will implement the wetlands and ecosystems restoration strategy countrywide by encouraging Communities to adopt a wetland near them
PS Festus Ngeno emphasised the importance of informed decision-making regarding land use changes, stressing the need to consider the diverse benefits and values that wetlands offer to both people and biodiversity. He advocated for prioritising the protection of naturally functioning wetlands in decision-making processes.
Senator Mandago extended a cordial invitation to CS Hon. Soipan Tuya, urging her to visit his county. Expressing his appreciation for the government's efforts in environmental conservation, he sought to enhance their collaboration by inviting the CS to witness first-hand the initiatives underway in his jurisdiction. Additionally, Senator Mandago requested bamboo seedlings from the CS to grow, supporting the President's initiative to further increase tree cover in Kenya, demonstrating his commitment to sustainable land management practices and biodiversity conservation in his county.
CS Tuya, CS Environment, emphasised the pivotal role of wetlands within the framework of the 10-year National Landscapes and Ecosystems Restoration Strategy, a cornerstone of the Government's ambitious 15 billion National Tree Growing Programme. She underscored the government's commitment to prioritising the restoration of wetlands due to their significant ecological benefits, which serve as vital sources of livelihoods for communities and catalysts for Kenya's socioeconomic advancement.
Under the banner of "Wetlands and Human Wellbeing," the theme emphasised the symbiotic relationship between healthy wetlands and thriving communities. As the fencing rose, it symbolised not just a physical barrier but a commitment to safeguarding nature's treasures for generations to come.
World Wetlands Day is an international celebration held every 2nd February to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and planet.
By J. Wango & S. Irungu