UPGro early careers researchers share experiences on an international platform

Compiled by Isaiah Esipisu, PAMAC news agency http://www.pamacc.org 

Five African early career research scientists took to stage at the 41st Water Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC)’s International Conference at the Egerton University in Kenya to showcase ongoing research achievements so far under the UPGro project.

Drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Ethiopia, the young researchers discussed some of the complex social science, physical science and practical issues given their experience in two research areas namely Gro for GooD, through which scientists are developing a groundwater risk management tool in Kenya, and Hidden Crisis, which is unravelling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply.

“Am not shy to say that it is my first time to participate in a research of this magnitude,” said Willy Sasaka, Assistant Hydrogeologist from the Rural Focus Company, which is coordinating the Gro4GooD research in Kenya.

Guided by scientists from the University of Nairobi, Oxford University, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and the University of Barcelona, the research project has led to the discovery of two paleochannels in Kenya’s Kwale County, which is the main source of groundwater that drives the tourism industry along Diani beach, serves residents of Ukunda, and supports a large scale irrigated sugarcane farming initiative in Kwale among others.

Sasaka made his presentation alongside his colleague, Suleiman Mwakuria, who explained how the scientists have been able to involve the local community in the research, including students who help in reading rain gauges among other things.

Patrick Makuluni, a geologist from Malawi talked about functionality and failures of boreholes in his country, showcasing slides to show how scientists have been able to identify reasons why boreholes fail soon after they have been sunk.

“Millions of pounds of investment by water users, charities and tax-payers are wasted each year by water points failing soon after construction,” he told delegates at an event organised by RWSN on the sidelines of the WEDC conference. “Getting a more complete understanding of how to keep water flowing from boreholes will reduce waste and improve water services for Africa’s poorest communities,” said Makuluni.

So far, the Malawi study, through which the scientists dismantled 50 functioning and dead boreholes to examine the underlying causes of failure, has already come up with preliminary findings.

“We found out that one of the causes of borehole failure was vandalism,” said Makuluni. Other boreholes were abandoned due to poor water quality, some due to poor maintenance; others were silted, while in some cases there were governance problems.

However, the young scientist noted that the researchers are yet to do data analysis, compile results, make reports and disseminate the findings.

Yehualaeshet Tadesse, a young female scientists from Ethiopia, presented a similar case, but focusing on social causes for poorly functioning water pumps in her country.

In Ethiopia, 170 water pumps in nine districts were surveyed in the first phase of the research project, where it was found that a lack of village level operation and maintenance skilled manpower was one of the contributing factors for water pump failure.

“We also found out that water pumps located in areas with alternative water sources such as springs, streams, private water scheme were poorly maintained,” said Tadesse.

She pointed out that pumps on non-communal land were often neglected, and as well, communities with limited finance and savings did not manage their boreholes well.

In Uganda, Joseph Okullo from Makerere University talked about rainfall variability, and how it affected groundwater in his country.

“Rainfall chloride concentration was interestingly found to be higher during drier season,” he told the WEDC delegates.

Sean Furey introducing African Early Career schientist at a WEDC side event

Above: Sean Furey (RWSN) introduces the research conducted by the UPGro Early Career Researchers.

The 41st WEDC International Conference is co-hosted with Egerton University, on Egerton main campus (near Nakuru) in Kenya between July 9 and 13, 2018. The conference is a valued and respected platform for reflection, debate and exchange of knowledge and ideas that are rooted in practice.

Photo credits: Isaiah Esipisu

 

 

Monitoring people’s welfare: where are the poor?

Gro for GooD collected data from over 3,000 households each year in 2014, 2015 and 2016 with the support of over 20 local staff trained by Oxford University. These data provide insights into who is poor, where people suffering poverty live and what is changing people’s welfare over time. The sampling strategy spans across Matuga, Msambweni and Lunga Lunga constituencies.

The latest round of the household survey took place in September to November 2016. The survey captures information on demographic and socio-economic, health, water sources, waterpoint management, water payments, water resources management as well as governance issues. In addition to the face-to-face interviews Gro-for-GooD has successfully piloted a mobile-based socio-economic survey instrument that can be used for rapid updating of the social component of the Groundwater Risk Management Tool.

Where are the poor? Welfare change 2014-2015

Kwale County Government is responding to the need to improve the lives of 7 out of 10 Kwale County residents who live below the poverty line of USD1.25 a day. To achieve this, the County needs to know who the poor are, where they are and the likely impacts of different poverty interventions. In an effort to answer some of these questions, data from the three household surveys were used to evaluate and map welfare between 2014 and 2015.

Households experiencing declining welfare in this period were observed to be in regions largely influenced by the tourism (Ukunda/Diani) and fishing (coastal strip) industries. However, some pockets within the coastal strip (Kinondo and Vingujini) were observed to have a positive change in welfare. Households that experienced a large positive change in welfare were observed to be around Lukore, Shimba hills, Mivumoni, Mbegani, Majimboni, Mangawani, Mzizima, Kinondo and Mwaluvanga, among others. The majority of households in Lunga Lunga experienced a decline in welfare.

A message from WRMA: our support for the Gro for GooD project

The Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA) is a State Corporation under the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. WRMA was established in the year 2003 pursuant to the enactment of Water Act number eight of 2002. WRMA is the lead agency in the regulation and management of water resources nationally.

One of WRMA’s core functions is to ensure that there is fair, transparent and participatory allocation and apportionment of water resources to all users, so that everyone who needs water can access it now and for generations to come. Communities are directly affected by the state of water resources. Livelihoods depend not only on water availability but also on the quality of available water, which may be affected by organic pollution from sewage, animal and human waste as well as inorganic pollution from transport, agriculture or industry. The quality of groundwater resources may also be affected by seawater intrusion.

Kwale’s groundwater resources have attracted several major abstractors in recent years. Recognising the importance of balancing competing demands for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses of groundwater, the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) has been collaborating closely with the Gro for GooD project since its inception. We have been involved directly in a number of activities, including provision of the ABEM SAS1000 Terrameter and participation in the geophysical survey and installation of water level recorders and other monitoring equipment. Data generated from these activities will provide critical inputs to the hydrogeological flow model for Kwale County that is under development by the project and will form the basis of the Groundwater Risk Management Tool. The tool, once developed, will prove most useful in decision-making by WRMA as we allocate the groundwater resources in Kwale County. WRMA is ISO 9001: 2008 Certified.

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WRMA staff Susan Mwangi and David Shokut undertake borehole monitoring at Tiwi BH 6

 

Improved data for better decisions to benefit all

Gro for GooD project has designed and installed an environmental monitoring network to complement existing data gathering by Base Titanium, KMD, WRMA and KISCOL. The environmental monitoring network collects data on the surface and groundwater quantity and quality, handpump abstraction and climate monitoring. There are 21 manual rain gauges, 4 Automatic Weather Stations, 3 automatic in-stream water level monitors (data loggers) and 5 groundwater level loggers. This network builds on the existing network of over 70 monitoring sites operated by Base Titanium Ltd., over 30 monitoring sites operated by KISCOL, and over 10 sites operated by KMD. Additional flow measurements using Current-Velocity Meter has also been undertaken by the project. The WRMA has been responsible for installation and operation of all the main river gauging stations on Ramisi and Mukurumudzi rivers and has been actively collecting data generated by different stakeholders. A message from the WRMA can be found on the facing page.

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Flow Measurement on Ramisi River at Eshu Bridge during short rains in November 2016 using Current Velocity Meter

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Gilbert of TAHMO undertaking regular maintenance of the AWS at Kidongo Gate in Shimba Hills

 

 

Rain – Kwale’s key resource

Everyone knows rainfall varies from season to season and year to year. Improved understanding of changes in rainfall patterns will help us evaluate the availability of water in rivers and dams, and calculate the amount of water entering into groundwater reserves (aquifers). The project has been working with local partners to combine multiple sources of historical and existing data records to give us more confidence in our understanding of rainfall patterns and variation in Kwale County. We are grateful for the generous support of the Kwale Agricultural Station and the Kenya Meteorological Department for sharing daily rainfall data from recent decades. Preliminary analysis of this data suggests that:

  • Annual rainfall has varied between 500 and 1700 mm with a mean annual average of 977 mm
  • On average there are 60 days of rain per year – though there have been years with few as 35 days of rain and as many as 100 days
  • From 1970 to now, we see no pattern of increase or decrease in annual rainfall or number of rainy days per year

Further analysis is being conducted on other stations.

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Drought data: Actual and average monthly rainfall at Shimba Hills (1-Jan-16 to 31-Jan-17)

 blog2Long term rainfall data from the KMD rain gauge at Kwale Agricultural Station

Base Titanium’s environmental network records show that rainfall at Shimba Hills Centre was significantly below average in 2016. The long term mean annual rainfall at this site is 1,380mm; 2016 rainfall at this gauge was 739mm, which is 54% of the mean. 2016 was the second driest calendar year on record, the driest year being 1974 (with 693mm, 50% of the long term mean).

A message from Lead Investigator: Professor John Gathenya, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

Droughts often lead to enormous pressure on the finite groundwater resources, both from domestic and commercial users. As we all know, Kenya is currently experiencing a major drought which has put millions of people and livestock at risk, with 1.3 million people in need of food aid in northern coastal regions. The impacts of the drought have also been felt here in Kwale, where water sources have dried up in Lungalunga and Kinango causing 200,000 people to suffer famine. The large economic investments like mining and agriculture have felt the impact through the diminishing surface water resource and groundwater table. The most vulnerable include poorer populations, schools and health centres. Working together with all stakeholders, the Gro for GooD project is advancing the development of a groundwater risk management tool that will help address such risks to groundwater security and livelihoods. The groundwater risk tool will help decision-makers to improve groundwater governance, balancing economic growth and groundwater sustainability for domestic and commercial users in pursuit of the wider goal of poverty reduction.

We would like to thank the local communities of Kwale County, Water Resource User Associations (WRUA), Kwale County Government, Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), Base Titanium Ltd., Kwale International Sugar Company Ltd. (KISCOL), the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), Rural Focus Ltd. (RFL), the University of Oxford, the Grupo de Hidrología Subterránea of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the University of Nairobi (UoN), the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for their continued support towards the development of the groundwater risk management tool.