The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews

ConocoPhillips

2011 Finalist

Project Meshanani

Project Meshanani

We know the worth of water after wells running dry

This project in Kenya is located in Meshanani (2° 31'56 .08 "S and 37° 7'31 .51" W), approximately 230 kilometres south of Nairobi, and is part of Amboseli National Park nearby Lake Amboseli. The region is home to large herds of elephants, zebras and antelopes as well as lions, hyenas, leopards and many more animal species. It is also home to a number of traditional Masai communities. These communities have approximately 30,000 people living spread out over an area of 1,500 square kilometres.

Approach

An area of approximately 10 square kilometres located between the Ilaingarunyen Hills and Lake Amboseli has been selected where the team will bring the water underground and create ample sub-surface water storage. The St Andrews Prize for the Environment funds will be allocated to this project to start trenching as soon as possible.

The trenches will be positioned on a higher slope located upstream of the current wells in the area owned by the Masai Olgulului Group Ranch. This will also prevent further erosion towards these wells. The trenches will ensure that in an area of 10 square kilometres of subsurface water, infiltration will occur*. Drought-resistant vegetation will emerge and the area will return to its evergreen status once more.

In addition, highly drought-resistant Jatropha Curcas will be planted as double-row hedges along the contour trenches. Jatropha is a fast growing plant, which holds well in semi-arid areas and due to its extensive root system, it will aid in preventing further erosion. The plant produces its first seeds after 2-3 years. The pressing of the Jatropha seed produces oil. This oil can be used as bio-fuel or can serve as feedstock for the production of (medicinal) soap. The residue (press cake) remaining after the pressing process is rich in phosphors and nitrate, making it highly suitable for use as a natural fertiliser. All these products will benefit the local population. Training and supervision of the community in Jatropha cultivation is part of this project.

Up-scaling of this project will evolve from the first ridge of 300 metres where the first trenches will be dug, and will expand downwards towards Lake Amboseli. Ideally the size of this expansion should reach a scale of sufficient size that the re-forested land surface will once more allow for terrestrial cooling and humidifying of the atmosphere, thereby ensuring that precipitation will become more evenly distributed in sequence as well as quantity. The size of this area required depends on the bio-density of the vegetation. However, based on historic values and type of vegetation, it is reasonable to assume 100 square kilometres to have a sustained, positive impact.

The longer-term objective for this project is the ecological recovery of the region between the ridge near Mananga and Lake Amboseli, an area of approximately 200 square kilometres. To achieve this main objective, the project is divided into segments and will be financed and implemented in stages. Each individual segment will start after the previous segment has been realised.

Expected results:

Once the scale of the work done is large enough (100 kilometres upwards), reforestation will positively influence rainfall patterns into a more pacified and even distribution.

Finally, this project will clearly show how to positively influence extreme weather patterns, thereby reducing floods and droughts in desertified areas by using the principles of water retention, water subsurface storage and water deposit.

*Often the area affected (spill-over area) is larger than the actual area trenched, but this is not reflected in the project since it is an uncertain variable depending on terrain and soil composition.

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