Kenya: Challenges facing the implementation of IWRM in Lake Jipe Watershed (#479)

Lake Jipe is facing a number of environmental and management problems which if not addressed, might lead to the disappearance of the lake. These problems include siltation, soil erosion, recurring droughts leading to shrinking fishery, deforestation, reduced lake run off, overgrazing and invasive waterweeds. The Lake Jipe Basin Integrated Management Plan (2009-2014) was developed in a consultation with various stakeholders including government, civil society, private sector and the local communities.

Other problems include transboundary resource management issues as well as limited income generating activities among the communities. Water pollution is another major challenge facing the basin. This is brought about by inappropriate liquid waste management from surrounding settlements, urban and peri - urban centers where the use of septic tanks, soak pits and open drains is commonly used to dispose sewerage, industrial discharge and other wastewater material. Preliminary efforts to address the degradation of Lake Jipe basin adopted a top-down approach whereby the government excluded local communities from the project design, planning and decision making process.

Action taken

The Lake Jipe Basin Integrated Management Plan (2009-2014) was developed in a consultation with various stakeholders including government, civil society, private sector and the local communities. It focuses on improving farming systems, sustainable livestock production, conservation and management of water, fisheries and forest resources. The Plan is an enabling guideline that outlines actions to achieve sustainable and equitable use of land and water resources in the basin for sustainable livelihoods.

Also, the Government of Kenya and Tanzania have signed a memorandum of understanding for the joint transboundary management of the Lake Jipe basin. The MoU aims to establish a joint cooperative framework for sustainable development and management of the ecosystems and set up institutional arrangement for the management of ongoing projects, programmes and initiatives within the basins.


Despite having a 5-year management plan for the lake Jipe watershed, the catchment is experiencing severe environmental degradation. Poor governance is a contributing factor to the failure of the management plan.

Over 90% of population adjacent to lake Jipe live in rural areas and depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood. The impact of bad agriculture practices includes soil erosion and siltation of rivers and Lake Jipe, reduced flow, lowering of water table, more sediment load produced into the rivers and water bodies increase nutrient level, which create conducive environment for growing of, water weeds. Since most farmers do not have user rights, they are not willing to invest in permanent soils and water management techniques thus resulting in soil and land degradation. The issue was well recognized in the planning stage, however, it was not fully addressed in actions.

Lessons learnt

Although the legislation is in place, it does not guarantee the positive results without “soft” measures including consensus building, social change instruments and shared vision planning.

The first step to ensure a successful management plan implementation is to build and strengthen the institutional and technical capacity of government officials and policy makers.

This case study demonstrated a complexity of issues ranging from ecosystem protection, agriculture policy aspects, institutional barriers, right based approach and empowering women and other vulnerable groups. Thus, IWRM approach is highly relevant tool to be applied.

Contact: Catherine Njiriri