Finding the Source: Conservation Efforts Along the Athi River


A Journey Through Gathara-ini, Thogoto Forest, Ondiri Wetlands, and Lari


By: Beatrice Waithera Wanjiru


SwampGathara-ini River: A Model of Community Conservation

Our journey began at the Gathara-ini River, an inter-boundary water resource for two counties and a vital tributary of the Athi River. The Gathara-ini Water Resource Users Association (WRUA), which includes the Small Axe Environmental Group, has been operational for eleven years. They transformed a dumpsite along the Gathara-ini riverbed in Clay City Ward into a green park that serves over 200 community members daily.

Despite recent flooding, which saw the river burst its banks, the community’s resilience shone through as they rescued people and animals from the deluge. The park, managed by WRUA, is now a recreational public space and a crucial part of the local ecosystem, home to various indigenous trees and bamboo.

Thogoto Forest: The Spring Source

In Kiambu County, we explored Thogoto Forest, where the Githire-Athi-Ondiri springs originate. This forest borders Maasai land in Kikuyu and supports the Karinde water repository tank, supplying local residents. The springs are crucial for the ecosystem, providing water to the Athi River and its tributaries.

Ondiri Wetlands: The Uplands Source

Ondiri Wetlands, the northernmost source of the Athi River, has supplied water to Nairobi for 102 years. Occupying 60 hectares, it supports a diverse ecosystem, including 200 bird species and 50 tree species. The wetlands’ water feeds Kikuyu springs, which in turn contribute to the Athi River. Ondiri Wetlands is managed by local conservation groups, who also organize the Ondiri Wetland Conservation Run to raise awareness.

Lari Swamp: A Threatened Ecosystem

Lari Swamp, located in the Lari settlement scheme, faces significant environmental challenges, including human encroachment and industrial pollution. The swamp, established in 1958, feeds the Ruiru River, which supplies water to Ruiru Dam—crucial for Nairobi and Kiambu. Despite its challenges, conservation efforts led by Bathi Water Resources User Association and Dr. Francis Muhoho are ongoing.

Challenges and Successes

The Athi River conservation network, convened by the Millennium Community Development Initiative (MCDI) and environmentalist Violet Matiru, faces various challenges, including pollution and lack of resources. However, the combined efforts of community-based groups like WRUAs and environmental organizations have made significant strides in preserving these critical water sources.

As flooding continues downstream, these communities remain committed to restoring and protecting their local environments, ensuring a sustainable water supply for future generations.

Written by: Beatrice Waithera Wanjiru Maina Broadcast Journalist | Founder of Young Women Growing Initiative – Kenya

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