Mara River Drying should be a wake up call. Reboot our brains

Once mighty Mara River now facing serious crisis

It is now official Mara River has virtually dried up a scenario never witnessed in the last 100 years.

Myriad of factors contribute to this state and key amongst them is the destruction of Mau forest which is the source of most of the rivers flowing across the greater Mara and finally Serengeti. That is not the aim of my piece this Sunday morning . Finger pointing won’t help us. We are also quick to blame global warming but truth is that 80% this is a self inflicted disaster.

On other hand wrong tree types replaced the indigenous trees at the water towers and the main culprit is the notorious Euclaptus trees that sucks water from the ground like no other trees does . This factor is also fueled by tea farms that are looking for easy quick cheap source of fuel to dry the tea leaves. Well the dry weather has now come to bite the same tea farms where 40,000 tea farms workers have been sent home.

Closer to my heart is tourism where we have marketed indeed over done it by selling Mara as a migration spectacle and indeed it is or was. Sadly we reduced Mara to a 3 months destination yet some of the best times to visit Mara is outside the migration period with less crowd and more cats and grazers. Simply put Mara is an all year round destination.

The news that Mara river is facing serious crisis is no longer news and I do not want to join the doom and gloom bandwagon. Yes it has dried , what next ?

Mara River virtually gone as we wait for rain water to replenish it.

Truth be said , most of our resources is God given and as Kenya we have put in almost no investment to sustain them. It is now time we did it and more so Narok county who draw resources from this great place. Kajiado, Nakuru , Taita Taveta are all yearning for an opportunity to manage Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Tsavo respectively.

Is it about time that we considered several small dams in the Mara and regulate the rain water from upstream , I think my answer is yes . We have become so much used to free flowing water that we have taken it for granted that it will never dry.

What will small dams across Mara do ? Micro climate will be created while consistent flow of the river will be guaranteed throughout the year and even Serengeti downstream will be happy to see that the flow of the river is year all round .I may not be a scientist but i believe daming a river that is turning to be seasonal is the only solution in the short term. Once the animals have enough grass and then water to quench their thirst they will thrive . Water bodies world over is a birds paradise and today we are looking at loss of our birds due loss of our habitat. Evidence of habitat loss is when bird species start to vanish.

Long term we must go back to the root cause of the problem up at the water towers . Reforestation and at the same a goverment order that will ban notorious Eucalyptus ( Muyua Mai, there is a reason why Late Wangari Mathai hated this tree that was imported from Australia ) . The same tree is also wrecking havoc in Central Kenya where rivers once flowed freely they are now all turning to be dry rocky river beds. At this rate even River Tana is no longer safe which is source of our hydro power.

Then finally to my fellow tourism players , it is about time we reboot our mindset how we sell and package Mara. It is about time we sold Mara holistically year all round and not reduce Mara to a migration phenomenon. We all know that the Mara river is facing serious challenges and that may just may be force us to put on our thinking hats and sell Mara as Mara and not as a three months migration phenomenon.

Botswana , Namibia and even South Africa do not have rivers flowing year all round but they attract tourists year all long. Botswana is one dry Okavango delta most of the year but they attract high end tourists so is Namibia a dessert . Why do I get the feeling that nature is now forcing us to reboot our brains. To Narok county , it is about time you invested back into this cash cow called Masai Mara and bit by bit you can set up the dams and trust me micro climate will be created and in the process Mara will rejuvenate as nice premium park.

Those saying Mara is now dead without the Mara River are pessimists. Mara is not dead , it will only be dead if we refuse to think beyond the free God given resources. Mara is 1/16 the size of the massive Serengeti . In Mara you can see the big four in under one hour and sometimes even the big five.

Folks the Cheese has moved , it’s time we woke up to smell the coffee. Is saving Mara possible , of course it is .

As always I choose to remain an optimist.

Mohammed Hersi
Chairman
Kenya Tourism Federation

1 thought on “Mara River Drying should be a wake up call. Reboot our brains”

  1. Dear Mr. Hersi, that’s a good piece bringing to light the silent death of the Mara river and reflecting the same scenario in other parts of the country. I would like to hear your thoughts on using part of resources set aside for Tourism Devt to fund conservation activities since the sector depends heavily on management of natural capital whether it’s forest conservation like in the Mau case to keep the Mara ecosystem thriving, or wildlife conservation through poaching mitigation strategies or even addressing community livelihoods and resilience to climate change to prevent encroachment of protected areas and conversion of more land into agriculture. Then the issues of governance comes in to avoid county policy contradictions or transboundary ones e.g Kenya vs Tanzania where resources driving Tourism are shared. Would love to engage you on the above.

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