GBM Blog

Communities rehabilitate Saba Saba River by planting bamboo

September 27, 2019 - 12:30PM
Published by Communications

The Tana River Basin is the largest and most important basin in Kenya. Stretching 95,950 square kilometers, it covers 22% of Kenya’s total landmass and is home to 18% of Kenya’s population.  The basin has the largest hydropower generation and accounts for approximately 61% of the total power supply in Kenya

Saba Saba River

Rivers feeding this great basin all originate from the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya and one in particular; Saba Saba River is a lifeline for residents in Murang’a County covering an area of 374 square kilometers as it meanders through the agricultural-rich tea zones into the semi-arid areas of the County.

Saba, as it is commonly referred to by the residents, is the main driver for small scale farming in a region where over 80% of the population is involved in agriculture.

In recent years, Saba Saba River has experienced a myriad of challenges including reduced flow from the effects of prolonged drought, siltation, pollution from agricultural and urban waste as well as over-abstraction of water for irrigation purposes.  This destruction is, in turn, threatening the livelihood of millions of people dependent on this crucial resource with Kamuiru and Samar sub-locations being the hardest hit.

Bamboo growing

Responding to this threat, the Green Belt Movement partnered with the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) to empower communities in Samar and Kamuiru to grow bamboo for livelihood improvement and landscape rehabilitation. These communities have been equipped with bamboo propagating skills and have managed to raise over 20,000 bamboo seedlings from four different varieties namely: Bambusa vulgaris, Dendrocalamus Asper, Dendrocalamus giganteus and Bambusa hydropower. They have also disseminated this knowledge to others through community group training.

Identifying Saba Saba River as a priority site for rehabilitation, these community groups have planted over 2,000 Bamboo seedlings along the river banks to reduce erosion. This will not only improve their water quality and quantity, but it will also trickle to many more communities in the larger Tana River Basin and the country at large.

With this bold initiative, the communities are optimistic that Saba Saba River will continue serving this region as it has for eons and therefore safeguard their livelihoods. Additionally, over 1,000 bamboo seedlings were planted in the farms to help ease communities’ access to fuelwood therefore reducing their dependency on the forest.

Kenya’s forest cover is still below the constitutional threshold of 10% and as more communities embrace bamboo growing, this number will change and the country’s critical watersheds will be restored for continued social, environmental and economic development.