Georgina Smith/CIAT.

Uniting farmers and business through Africa’s first Water Fund

Research will play a vital role in ensuring that the Nairobi Water Fund delivers on its promise to protect Kenya’s most economically vital watershed whilst providing cleaner water and reducing soil erosion.

Soil erosion is a reality for almost one million farmers in Kenya’s Lake Tana region; it’s a threat to not only livelihoods but also water and energy supplies. Today marks an important milestone for Africa. The Nature Conservancy, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and partners launched a landmark initiative aimed at supporting farmers in an effort to curb this problem and help Africa face the challenge of rising threats to food security and water and energy supplies.


The Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a public-private scheme that aims to unite big business, utilities, conservation groups, government, researchers and farmers. If successful, this initiative could generate US $ 21.5 million in long-term benefits to Kenyan citizens, including farmers and businesses by not only increasing farm productivity upstream but also improving water supply and cutting hydropower costs for those downstream. This could also essentially pave the way for ‘payment for ecosystems services’ projects across the continent. Downstream users, such as Coca-Cola, East African Breweries, and utility companies, will pay upstream “guardians” to implement strategic measures to protect the upper watershed.


Research has and will continue to play a vital role in ensuring the Fund’s success. Supported by funding from the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, CIAT’s expertise in land-use mapping and land-use change detection is helping drive essential evidence-based and targeted investments to prevent major ecosystem damage in the most cost-effective way.

Detecting and predicting the causes of sedimentation is only part of the work”, said Fred Kizito, CIAT soil scientist. “We can only know if the Water Fund is delivering on the promises laid out in the business case, also launched by TNC today, by monitoring the impact of interventions targeted for different areas within the watershed.”

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