The Mau forest debate that has generated immense debate in the country is likely to benefit from a new initiative fronted by JKUAT in collaboration with Ecotact Ltd that was likely to bridge the existing wide gap between research and action through the generation and strengthening of knowledge sharing between researchers and public policy makers in Kenya on the essential subject of water and sanitation. The new forum funded by the Netherlands Ministry for Development that held its inaugural session at the Hotel Intercontinental, Nairobi, August 12, 2009, had various participants drawn from universities, research institutes, local and central government authorities and law makers who warned of the looming dangers that the country faced if urgent measures were not taken to reverse widespread ruin of the environment.
Two university researchers, Prof. Catherine Muthuuri and Dr. Peter Kundu from JKUAT and Egerton universities presented papers on land use and focusing on the crisis brought about by the human encroachment of the Mau now a threat to the ecosystems not only in Kenya but in the entire African continent. In her presentation, Prof. Muthuuri a botanist gave a detailed account of the destruction of the Mau complex that she said suffered over 20 percent forest loss in 32 years between 1973 and 2005 based on her joint research findings that she undertook with her colleagues in Newcastle University, U.K and ICRAF, Kenya.
Prof. Muthuuri went on to say the immediate impact on increased land use in the Mau was resulting water scarcity and urged government to employ the use of available strategies and provide solutions to the escalating water scarcity that she said should include modern technologies such as rain water harvesting. Farmers too she said could be assist ed to plant the right trees as part of the reforestation program to reclaim the Mau water catchment tower and source of more than five rivers key to the livelihood of numerous human populations and entire biodiversity. An urgent alternative to eucalyptus that was now popular due to its high economic value despite its negative impact on water catchments she added had to be sought. “Work on the comparative water use of eucalyptus and other widely grown trees such as grevillea, cordial and bamboo is being undertaken by JKUAT and ICRAF” Preliminary results Prof. Muthuuri said showed that the three tree species had higher water use efficiency than the eucalyptus.
The project tabbed Professional forum, was also addressed by the Vice Chancellor Professor Mabel Imbuga and Water Assistant Minister Hon. Mwangi Kiunjuri. Prof Imbuga who assured participant that JKUAT was keen to provide the necessary research findings to inform public policy on the best way that could restore the Mau forest while Mr. Kiunjuri lamented that a government decision on Mau was being slowed because of the many ministries involved but warned that the destruction of the forest had dramatically reduced the country’s water storage capacity leaving Kenya to be among the countries with the least water storage capacity in the world.