Upper tana-nairobi water fund trust

Water Funds in Africa

High on the hillsides north of Kenya’s capital, more than 45,000 farmers are terracing fields, planting trees, and digging rainwater storage ponds to conserve water and keep their farms’ soil out of the river that supplies Nairobi with much of its drinking water and energy.

In the flatlands outside Cape Town, South Africa, above an aquifer that is critical to the supply of water for that dry city, a small team of women are pulling up non-native, water-thirsty plants that are taking excessive amounts of moisture from the ground.

In both cases, these activities to restore natural ecosystems are funded in part by the very people who rely most on the precious water those environments supply: businesses and water users in the cities downstream.

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Capacity building

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TNC Kenya's team planted approximately 2000 tree seedlings in a secondary school and three neighbouring farms in South Kinangop. Species planted were agroforestry and fruit trees as well as indigenous trees.

The NWF interns names are as follows:
Cyrus Shikhalo Kaitano
Florence Wanjiku Mugi
Magdalene Wangechi Wang’ondu
Janelisper Waithira Kariuki
John Ng’ang’a Gathagu.
Restoration & Reforestation

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Better quality water

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Good agricultural practices

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Elena Kinyua, an innovative farmer in the foothills of Mt. Kenya (in the background). Grows carrots, tree tomatoes, cabbage, avacado and has livestock. She has got a water pan from NWF. She’s put a bag of manure in the water, so that it creates algae that feeds fish, and enriches the water she puts on her plants.
Water Pans

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A visit to the Ndakaini dam. The twins Joy and Joan are so excited to play in the water but they can't swim so they won't venture too far out. The twins sing and dance on the way back to the farm teasing Susan.


Family: James Kariuki
Area: Gatanga Region, Thika
Farm type: Tea plantation on the foothills of Ndakaini Dam. The dam supplies 88% of water to Nairobi city. The water source is the Aberdare mountains.

Family members at home:
1. Esther Wanjiru Kariuki, Mama- 60 years old, gave birth to 11 children all at home without outside help!
2. James Kariuki, Father, 66 years old
3. Joel Ruku Kariuki, Son, 19 years old
4. Susan Gathoni Kariuki, Daughter, 17 years old
5. Simon Mwangi Kariuki, Youngest son, 15 years old
- 11 children in total
- 9 grandchildren in total
- Twins Joy Wairimu Wangari and Joan Wanjiru Wangari (11 years old) are visiting their grandparents for their Christmas holidays. They spend 2 months here.

NWF Sustainable Farming practices:
- have a water pan with tilapia fish which they will sell at 200/300 kshs
- use water pan during the dry season (they are prohibited to use the dam water on their farms)
- terracing for vegetables taught by NWF representative Carol
- have planted more Avocado trees as a cash crop as instructed by NWF representative Carol
- only buy flour, sugar, sometimes bread and oil. The rest they grow on their farms. 
-Have chickens, rabbits, a goat and a cow for milk daily 
- use fire wood from the farm as fuel for cooking 

Food crops:
Arrow root 
Black night shade (spinach)
Kale (sukumawiki)

Cash crops:
- avocado 
- tea 
- kale, cabbage, spinach
- Tea- 1KG sold at 10 shillings plus 40-50 kgs bonus per kg paid at year end. Approx 400kg of tea per month.

Daily schedule:
- 6:00 am mama and baba wake up to pray in their room (you can hear them from my room)
- 6:30 am start boiling water and milk the cow. TV switched on to gospel music.
- 7:00 am Chai (milk with a tint of tea) and breakfast (left over dinner from the
Water for people & industry

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“Green infrastructure” is often more cost-effective than upgrading “grey infrastructure”

As populations grow, economies boom, and the climate changes, watersheds that naturally help power progress and give people water are coming under extreme pressure.

Nairobi needs nearly four times more water than it did 15 years ago, and every day more than half of the city’s 4 million residents can’t access enough water. In Cape Town, acute shortages have forced authorities to limit people to 50 liters per day: barely enough for a four-minute shower and two toilet flushes.

Science shows that preventing problems at their source by investing in nature’s own supply chains — “green infrastructure” — is often more cost-effective than upgrading “grey infrastructure” like dams and reservoirs.

Water funds create a system through which municipal utilities and businesses can invest in the source of their water upstream. But it’s not just downstream stakeholders that are investing in these protection and restoration initiatives: The proven water fund model has attracted outside funding as well, from public funding agencies, as well as private foundations and donors. In the case of the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund, interventions such planting trees, creating riparian buffer zones, and teaching farmers terracing techniques are creating an improved water supply, a healthier freshwater ecosystem, and improved livelihoods for farming families.


The Nature Conservancy (TNC) launched its first water fund in Quito, Ecuador, in 2000, and since then has proven the formula in more than 30 cities around the world. The Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund became the first water fund in Africa in 2015. Since then a water fund has been established in Cape Town and  TNC scientists have assessed the potential for watershed conservation to benefit cities, rural livelihoods, and nature across 30 large cities in Sub-Saharan Africa that are primarily dependent on surface water supply.   TNC has shared its two decades of experience on water funds globally with others who can replicate the model in cities across Africa. By 2025, it is expected there will be 10 water funds operating or under development in Africa.

Zeleke Teferi, Head of Catchment Management for the Addis Ababa Water Agency, has lauded the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund on how it united upstream farmers with downstream water users.

“The important thing is it brings together all the stakeholders — the farmers, the water users, and the water suppliers,” he said. “Other initiatives only considered one set of stakeholders. There was a disconnection, but here everyone is joined.”

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Other Water Funds

Global Water Funds

Water does more than give life — it sustains it.

When there’s enough water, life thrives. It is necessary for the health and wellbeing of plants, animals and people. It supports growth, prosperity and safety for all communities. In fact, most cities took root because a source of water was nearby. But, today, research shows that half of all people live in places where their water sources are being degraded or used up faster than they are being replenished.

That means major losses for people and nature. Deforestation, poor agricultural practices and other unsustainable land uses result in less water flowing downstream, fewer fish and other wildlife, and more pollution. In 2018, Cape Town came within 90 days of “day zero,” when the city’s taps would be turned off. In 2019, Chennai—India’s sixth-largest city—has essentially run out of water. These are not isolated incidents. Forty percent of the world’s watersheds are unhealthy, threatening approximately 1.7 billion people living in cities. The incentives to secure water are clear. But, when it comes to water, the real return on investment is in protecting and restoring watersheds—where water comes from. Forward-looking businesses, governments, water utility companies and other water users are already collectively investing in their future water supplies through water funds—innovative collaborations that secure long-term funding for the conservation of their watersheds. With almost three dozen water funds in operation globally, the impact of these funds is already significant. Water funds can help meet the world’s rapidly growing need for clean water—and a host of other environmental and economic challenges—but only if we can mobilize investment on a global scale.

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