Researchers Demystify Narok Flash Floods


Prof. Gathenya (right) and Lorraine Karimi, a PhD student at PAUSTI, make a joint presentation during the workshop

A team of multi-organizational researchers have released a report of their research findings that gives an in-depth insight into the flashfloods and  soil erosion menace that has been wreaking havoc in Narok County.

The eye-opening research has indicated that the idea of a flash flood free Narok remains far-fetched unless concerted efforts from the locals and political goodwill are urgently integrated to pave way for the reinforcement of measures that will contain further damages from happening in the area.

The research team led by Prof. John Gathenya (Principal Investigator) of the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Engineering, JKUAT, has been conducting research on flash floods and erosion in Enkare Narok River Basin since 2018.

Other partnering researchers are drawn from the Ewaso Ngiro South Development Authority, Water Resource Authority, Cactus Analysis and Management Services, and academic staff and postgraduate students from JKUAT and Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, technology and Innovation (PAUSTI).

The research culminated in a two day interactive stakeholders meeting and dissemination workshop held between December 1-2, 2021 at Mara Frontier Hotel, Narok town.

In one of the damning research findings conducted at Olopito location in Narok County, it was revealed that poor land practices such as unregulated land leasing, inadequate soil conservation measures such as cultivating up and down the slope, and lack of soil cover has rendered the land barren.

Other areas that were fingered by the researchers were; inadequate tree cover brought about by charcoal burning, poor soil fertility and  livestock management , and increasing rainfall intensity as a result of climate change.

Prof. Gathenya explains the dynamics behind formation of gullies in a farm based at Olopito

These practices, the researchers revealed, have exposed the land to severe soil erosion to the magnitude of 75 tons per hectare per year.

“The biggest problem in this area is that the top part of the soil is gone and the remaining part is untillable and it is technically referred to as “badlands” because it lacks the fertility to support crop production,” said Prof. Gathenya.

Prof. Gathenya urged local leaders to mobilize members of the community to plant adaptive trees in their farms in order to salvage the small patches that are not severely affected by soil erosion.

“Without the tree cover, gullies keep expanding even without large amounts of rain and it is projected that during heavy downpour the gullies expand rampantly,” explained Prof. Gathenya.

On his part, Mr. Kelene Ole Nchoe, a community elder, expressed his gratitude to the researchers noting that the time for action is well overdue.

Mr. Ole Nchoe said afforestation and sensitization of the locals on proper farming methods should be prioritized in order to protect the water catchment in the area.

He urged leaders to take responsibility and direct more resources to dealing with flash floods and soil erosion which has plagued the area for a long time.

Workshop stakeholders pose for a commemorative photo 

Other areas of presentation during the workshop included flood mapping, role of citizens in flood mapping and management, socio-economic vulnerability assessment, and an open forum with locals to discuss the management risks associated with flash floods and erosion as well as a field visit to one of the farms that has been adversely affected by the menace.

The workshop was funded by the International Foundation for Science, and Kenya National Research fund.

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