HELP International

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Location: River Margins of Shauri Moyo, Kitui Village, Majengo, and Kamukunji (Nairobi, Kenya)
Implementation: HELP, Nairobi City Planning Department, Ministry of Forests, 40 Women’s Self-Help Groups, 2 Super Community Based Organizations
Donors: CIDA, Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation, HELP International
1. Program Description and Rationale: Nairobi River Streambank Protection Project
There are five compelling reasons why NCC, HELP, and Local Partners wish to carry out extensive vegetating or phytoremediation of the Nairobi River Margin. These include:
  • Breakdown of Biological Wastes
    Vegetation is required to accelerate the break down of dangerous biological contaminants on the Nairobi River shoreline brought there by the systemic dumping of household wastes and human fecal material.  Without the activity of plants to create rhizome, the breakdown of biological wastes is greatly retarded and delayed due to lack of aeration, water saturation, and the absence of plant vitamins and enzymes required for biological decay.
  • Flood Control
    Vegetation is required to control flooding.  A dense riparian zone of lush green grass and trees along the river over several kilometres has the capacity of holding for gradual release billions of gallons of rainwater.  A typical rain will create a 12 – 24 hour rapid water release and flooding in river areas without a riparian green zone. On the other hand, the same rain will create a gradual 3 – 7 day gradual release of the same water without flooding where there is a lush green riparian zone along the river.
  • Preservation of Fish and Shoreline Habitat
    Vegetation is required to preserve the Nairobi River as a fish habitat. Vegetation, which overhangs the river edge with well developed rooting, provides oxygen into the river vital for fish life. As importantly, vegetative overhang or taller trees on the margin shade the river, keeping the water temperature within the tolerance of fish species.  Likewise shoreline vegetation is necessary for bird species. The type of vegetation can determine the kind of species attracted to the river margin in the City. Biodiversity requires diversity in vegetation.
  • Prevention of Erosion and Silt Pollution
    Vegetation on the margin creates a Luo pot shaped river bottom with a deeper bottom and fortified overhanging margins.  Without vegetation the margins are eroded and become pollutant sediments on the bottom of the river creating a shallower river with less capacity to recharge the underground aquifer. Downstream community reservoirs are silted in due to this erosion.  Organic nutrients are also dangerous pollutants which enhance the proliferation of poisonous forms of algae.
  • Empowerment of Women and Other Community Groups
    The program allows Self Help Groups to Protect the environment by having an economic stake in the protected margin. That is, in exchange for carrying out forestation activities on the margin, they receive in return, some carefully managed harvests from the margin under the close supervision of Ministry of Forests, HELP and NCC.
2. The Methodology
  • Utilization of women’s groups and PTA's
    HELP has facilitated the formation of twenty-two new women self help groups in Kitui Village (Pumwani).  Another fifteen new women’s groups are anticipated.  This is in addition to select  PTA's participating from the area.
  • Each group becomes a stream bank steward of an eighteen-meter way-leave
    The plan is for each of the forty groups to become Stream Bank Stewards of an eighteen meter way-leave of the river margins that traverse through Nairobi.
  • Program is demand driven responding to requests from legitimate disadvantaged groups or PTAs on any river system in Nairobi.
    Planting will begin on Nairobi River Margin but will invariably come to include Matheri, and Motoini/Ngong Rivers as well.  HELP uses a demand driven model where the organization assists community groups who request inclusion in river protection from anywhere on the river system in Nairobi. 200 Meters of Nairobi River Margin Protection has been completed by Nairobi Handicraft Society.
  • Stream Bank Steward Groups sign a strict streambank stewardship contract spelling out the privileges, obligations and restrictions of stream bank stewardship.
  • Each group develops their own tree nurseries, fences the river margin where required, trees out the river and waters the trees.
  • Each group is provided with a 20 to 100 meter length of river to protect.
  • The first fifteen meters of river margin would be planted down to a combination of Napier grass (along the water’s edge and on severe flood areas) supplied through KARI, fruit trees, trees for carving stock and other limited commercial purposes.  The trees would protect the river and their fruits and woods would be available for managed harvests.  70% of the trees are anticipated for orchard fruit production.  Napier grass would be harvested as cattle fodder.
  • Horticulture/Tree Nursery Strip - In addition, a three meter width on the 16, 17, and 18th meter from the river margin is  designated for strict horticulture including vegetables, flowers and tree seedling production.
  • Each of the women’s groups would also maintain a food compost bin on their twenty meter margin to provide manure to the plantations.


3. Rural Districts River Protection Program
  • HELP is currently responding to requests in four districts and has seven tree nurseries started by six Women’s Groups and one PTA in Makueni. 

 © HELP International 2014