Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of the Mau Forest Complex, Cherangany Hills, and Mt. Elgon Water Towers in Kenya

Authors: ICPAC, US Forest Service Internation Programs, USAID Kenya and East Africa
Date: 2018


Fostering the resilience of landscapes to climate change is among the most pressing challenges Kenya faces today. The Government of Kenya has taken immense measures to enhance adaptation to climate change. This is through the enactment of relevant polices and guidelines such as the National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) in 2010, the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) in 2013, and the National Adaptation Plan in 2016. These plans, together with the Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan(GESIP 2016-2030), emphasize a low carbon climate resilient development pathway which enhances adaptation and resilience to the vagaries of climate change. As part of mainstreaming Climate change adaptation in the environment sector, the National Adaptation Plan calls for undertaking climate vulnerability and risk assessments on ecosystems and providing relevant guidelines on adaptation actions. The Water Towers are critical ecosystems in Kenya that support key economic sectors such as forestry, water, energy, tourism, and agriculture, among others. Effective approaches to sustainable management of these Water Tower ecosystems require a better understanding of their vulnerabilities. It is also important to note that vulnerabilities vary considerably across both the space and time scales, therefore, a “one size fits all” approach to management of these ecosystems is not viable. This report highlights the vulnerabilities and threats posed by climate change to three Water Towers. This climate change vulnerability assessment, falling in line with the NAP recommendations, and spearheaded by scientists from the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), is a collaborative effort of the various stakeholders; the government, civil society, development agencies, the scientific community, and local communities living and deriving livelihoods from these ecosystems. The assessment follows an international standard of determining exposure (the direct climatic change stresses), sensitivity (how environmental attributes such as forests and water react to these stresses), and adaptive capacity (the ability of these attributes to maintain themselves). This publication is part of a series of knowledge products, under the Kenya Water Towers Climate Change Resilience Program, designed to support strategic planning that strengthens the cause for and rigor of interventions designed to enhance the climate change adaptive capacity and resilience of the Water Towers. Specific information outlined in this report include a historical analysis of the changes in the climatic patterns and future predictions for the Water Towers. The Water Tower ecosystems provide suitable micro climatic conditions favourable for production of tea - a major export that earned Sh129 billion in 2017. Therefore, understanding the risks this ecosystem faces due to climate change is important to implement management strategies that can safeguard this vitally important component of Kenya’s economy. Threats to the forest sector in these Water Towers is also highlighted. Nearly 75 percent of Kenya’s water supply is drawn from rivers that emanate from the Water Tower ecosystems. This report highlights the associated impacts of climate change on stream flows of these rivers and gives estimates on anticipated water supply deficits. Changes in hydropower production at Turkwel and Sondu Miriu are also highlighted. Protection and rehabilitation of the Water Tower ecosystems are key deliverables of the Kenya’s Third Medium Term Plans (MTP III). This publication provides insights into how climate change adaptation can be strengthened and accelerated through community-based risk assessment and participatory planning.