World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally each year on 2nd February to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance that was ratified in Ramsar, Iran, on 2nd February, 1971.
Wetlands play an important role in helping to provide communities with resilience to natural hazards such as flooding caused by storms, cyclones, storm surges and tsunamis. Under projected climate change scenarios, extreme climatic events, including floods, droughts and storms are expected to increase in frequency and intensity.
Unfortunately, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland, and more than 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. World Wetlands Day is an annual opportunity to raise public awareness and promote the value of wetlands.
Kenya through the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources joined the rest of the world in marking this day with the theme “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction”. KEFRI under the auspices of Kenya Water Towers and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme (WaTER) participated in the celebrations hosted in Trans Nzoia County. The day was marked with a cleanup exercise of Saiwa Swamp National Park and Kipsaina Market on 1st February and culminated with the celebrations on 2nd February at Kipsaina Market.
The CEC- Environment, Trans Nzoia County, Hon. Maurice Lokwaliwa assisted by Dr.Ayub Macharia Director NEMA flags off the cleanup exercise at Saiwa Swamp National Park on 1st February, 2017.
Saiwa Swamp National Park is a forested paradise filled with exotic flowers, trees and birds. It is also the habitat of the rare and endangered semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope and a preserve for the rare De Brazza’s monkey. The swamp ecosystem is under threat from various invasive species the main one being elephant grass which is choking the ecosystem. The species has been introduced into the swamp as a result of farming activities from farms further upstream.
Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) in partnership with the local communities have in the past manually uprooted the elephant grass and replanted papyrus on the sites. Senior Warden Oyugi explained that more effort was needed to curb the elephant grass menace otherwise the park was at risk of losing the wildlife which is also under threat. He called upon the farming community to clear their land of the elephant grass by uprooting and burning rather than throwing it into the streams.
KEFRI Project Officer shaking the soil off from uprooted elephant grass. Looking on is Prof. Tanui of Kenya Water Towers Agency. (Photos-Courtesy of Nereoh Leley, Project Assistant WaTER project)
Stakeholders display the grasses uprooted from the swamp