The Kimana wetlands in Southern Kenya (Amboseli) are part of the larger Amboseli wetland system where a series of springs emerge in the basin from the watershed of Mount Kilimanjaro. The core of the wetlands system is the Kimana group ranch, a 62,073-acre tract of land, collectively owned by about 845 extended families of traditional Maasai pastoralists.
The Kimana wetlands are vital for the life of Maasai pastoralists and farmer communities living around the streams. It is from the same wetlands that the Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks, with endangered species like elephants and lions and strong tourism industry, depend on.
Over-cultivation and excessive water extraction are the main problems facing the wetlands of Kimana. The progressive disappearance of the snowcap on Kilimanjaro Mountain is now increasing the already severe water stress in the region. This, in turn, is hampering the downstream flow of water from the mountain.
Certain sections of the wetlands, for instance, only receive water during the rainy season and probably only for 2 months as opposed to the traditional 5 months of the year.
Because farming of mostly tomatoes, onions and other vegetables is now happening all around the wetlands, some of the areas have been fenced off by conservationists to avert a looming disaster as the area’s interconnected streams and swamplands have been increasingly drained to allow for irrigated agriculture.
Wildlife from the Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks is forced to pass through some narrow gaps increasing human-wildlife conflicts. Apart from attracting and supplying wildlife on the move, the wetlands support the region’s core livelihood, livestock production.
Because of these threats to the wetland, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and Noomayianat Community Development Organization, a community-based organisation with its offices in Oloitokitok, initiated a project to protect the wetlands by constructing walls around these areas to control access but at the same time constructing furrows that allow both humans and livestock to get their fill of water without encroaching into the sensitive wetland areas.
This initiative may perhaps be the last attempt to save a very fragile yet valuable ecosystem even as scientists predict that the complete melting of the snow atop Mount Kilimanjaro may happen sooner than expected.