Adopt-a-river initiative

Written by
Dr Ayub Macharia

Adopt-a-River Initiative_ Draft Concept NoteRiver entering sea
The Kenyan public and schools now have an opportunity to champion for clean and healthy rivers and other wetlands. NEMA is promoting an initiative whereby schools and community groups undertake regular monitoring of rivers using benthic invertebrates (animals that inhabit the floor of the river/wetland). This method is simple and cheap and has been used successfully in South Africa. The participants are expected to upload their findings into a Google map platform called MiniSASS (Mini Stream Assessment) that was developed by multiple partners including the Wildlife and Environment Society for Southern Africa (WESSA), GroundTruth and some water companies from South Africa. The platform is sensitive and can tell the health of a river immediately after the findings by the participating groups have been uploaded.
The website indicates a clean river as a green frog while a polluted river is indicated using a red frog. Between the two extremes, the frog could go through several colors symbolizing changes in levels of pollution.
This project will initially involve schools and community groups within the Nairobi River Basin. It will be spearheaded by NEMA in collaboration with RCE Greater Nairobi. The technical leader for the project will be the University of Nairobi, School of Biological Sciences and National Museums of Kenya.
The project aims to strengthen the link between the curricula and addressing real sustainability challenges. The curricula entry point is the dichotomous key that is a major topic in secondary schools. Hence secondary schools within the basin especially those who can easily access the nearby stream will participate in the project. Community conservation groups within the basin will also be given an opportunity to participate. Every effort will be made to make schools and community groups to work together.
The project will be implemented as follows
1. Identification of Schools and community groups
NEMA in collaboration with RCE Greater Nairobi, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and Kenya National Commission for UNESCO (KNATCOM) will identify schools to participate in the project. In addition, KNATCOM and Kiambu and Nairobi County Social Departments will propose community groups for the same.
2. Procurement and distribution of Equipment
The University of Nairobi  and National Museums of Kenya will suggest appropriate equipment to be procured. NEMA will procure the equipment and with the other partners distribute them to the participating institutions after they attend relevant sensitization explained below.
3. Training of participants
Several institutions will collaborate to conduct trainer of trainer capacity building for the participating institutions and community groups. The players include University of Nairobi, National Museums of Kenya, KNATCOM, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), and NEMA. The training will be both theoretical and practical using the dichotomous key and the MiniSASS.
4. Project implementation
The methodology used in wetland monitoring is simple. Participants will be provided with a chart showing pictures of different organisms inhabiting water bodies. After extensive research, scientists have discovered that animals tolerate different pollution levels, and hence there are organisms that inhabit polluted water while others only live in fresh water. The participants are hence expected to visit the water bodies nearest to them, collect the organisms in water, identify them with the help of a chart provided and upload the type of organisms and their counts to the MiniSASS website. The website provides a response immediately whereby the color of the frog changes.
5. Continuous guidance
The technical team from NEMA and RCE Greater Nairobi and other partners will be available throughout to support the participants and to clarify any issues. The technical assistance will involve visits to sampling sites to ensure everything was done properly.
6. Ecological Restoration phase
Once the data is uploaded on the MiniSASS, the participants are expected to spearhead corrective action to make sure the color of the frog on the website remained green, symbolizing lack of pollution in the water. Hence, the participants are expected to work closely with NEMA to identify the sources of pollution and expected corrective measures. Where this entails NEMA undertaking enforcement action, this would be done immediately. The participants are also expected to plan other local initiatives to restore and sustain the health of their wetlands. Hence the overall goal of this project is to a) Strengthen monitoring of the Nairobi River Basin streams by local stakeholders, b) Make learning of Biology, especially the Dichotomous key more interesting, practical and lively c) Steer restoration of polluted streams within the Nairobi River Basin to make them more clean and healthy
Any school or community group interested in participating in this project can get in touch with NEMA HQ, Department of Environmental Education, Information and Public Participation. For more information, please see this file

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