Drying River Emining causing conflict in Baringo
At the silent Kabimoi trading centre in Eldama Ravine, tension can be felt from every corner within the area, with most residents appearing to be on guard.
The arrival of any stranger to the area, especially around the Naisura section of the River Emining, is treated with suspicion.
Distinct groups of young and old men can be spotted converging at various points.
This has been the norm for close to a month now, after the residents were ambushed by a group of youths armed with bows and arrows, who had come from the neighbouring Mogotio sub county protesting what they said was blocking and diversion of river waters from their access.
The angry community members from Emining had followed the river channel to the Kabimoi area hoping to find the person responsible for the drying up of the river downstream.
Along the way, the group ended up destroying anything that they felt was blocking the river or siphoning water. This included water pumps, pipes and other intakes along the river.
The incident has brought about counter accusations between area politicians over the matter.
Eldama Ravine MP Musa Sirma and his Mogotio counterpart Reuben Kiborek have found themselves trading blame and defending allegations relating to inciting youths to violence and funding irrigation along the river.
Daniel Kipng’ok, an elder at Kabimoi, reveals that the status quo has existed for two weeks now since the incident which threatened to disrupt the peace that the communities have enjoyed for years.
He explains that the residents of Eldama Ravine, especially those who depend on the river, were angered by the incident that had caught the attention of the administration and other local leaders.
“After the incident, our members had to think of how to protect themselves should the attack happen again. We have been getting information that people were mobilising themselves to come here again," he says.
Kipng’ok says the villagers were falsely accused of diverting the river, noting that the water volume had reduced.
Meanwhile, at the Emining Trading Centre in Mogotio sub county anger and frustration is painted all over the residents' faces. The Emining river has been their main source of clean water for a long time, but it has now dried up.
Just like at Kabimoi, groups of people stand in different spots. The discussion is all about the river. It has been two weeks since it stopped flowing.
Beatrice Kogo, who operates a fast-food joint, laments the frustrations she has been facing for the past few weeks after the river dried up.
The residents are forced to buy water from a borehole several kilometres away at Sh20 for a 20-litre jerry can.
“It is very expensive to buy water every day since I use at least 300 litres a day. It is also salty, compared to the water from the river,” says Kogo.
Vincent Bor, a boda boda rider at the centre, believes someone in Eldama Ravine is responsible for the drying up of the river. He and his colleagues are mulling holding a protest march along the river.
But this is likely to result in violence considering the situation in Kabimoi.
“Last time when we went there and cleared the river. We had water flowing for two days before it was then blocked. I think the only way to get water flowing in the river is to go back there and confront those blocking it,” says Bor.
Carol Cherono, who lives at Gimose, further downstream, has not seen water for the past 25 days.
The mother of three says her vegetables in the farm have withered and animals are dehydrated.
She is apprehensive of losing her livelihood should the situation continue.
“The river channel has remained dry for more than 20 days and I see no hope of the water coming back. I am forced to buy water from the borehole at Gimose for my family and animals," she says.
The volume of River Narusura, which flows from its catchment areas in Lembus and Kiplombe forest in Koibatek sub county has reduced over the past few years, and has dried up downstream, especially in Mogotio, where it is known as Emining river.
From the source, the river flows through various villages, including Kabimoi where the water's volume is relatively high but which declines as it flows downstream before it joins the Pekerra River that drains into Lake Baringo at Radaat location.
The rivers dry up completely at Rusoga area near emining at the border of Mogotio and Koibatek leaving the communities downstream without water.
At the Emining footbridge small portions of water have collected in pools along the river course. This is what the residents have been drinking but it has now turned bitter for them.
Emining location chief Rutto Jepkemoi said the local administration has been holding numerous meetings with the communities in bid to find the solution to the problem and avert possible conflict over the resource.
Some of the issues deliberated in the meeting is how to stop irrigation along the river and reduce water intakes to the farms.
Jepkemoi says the administration, in collaboration with the Water Resource Management Authority, have been trying to discourage pumping of the waters to the farms by arresting culprits, but they have been unable to fully stop it.
The administrator explains that the majority of the residents have in the recent past been turning to agriculture by using the river water to irrigate their tomato farms.
“Residents in places where the river has dried up are very bitter and we have done countless meetings in an attempt to quell the anger that is growing among the residents,” says Jepkemoi.
In one of the meetings Mogotio MP promised to sponsor water bowsers to provide water to the residents
Baringo County executive member for Water Richard Tamar explains that the drying up of the river is due to climate change.
Tamar says the change in climate has seen streams from the water towers, which feed the river, reduce significantly due to destruction of the forest in Kiplombe and Lembus.
Cultivation along the riverbanks has exposed the river waters to evaporation, he adds.
“This combined with irrigation activities have resulted in the river losing much of its waters and eventually drying downstream,” he says.
Dr Tamar says the county government is working with the ministry to ensure the residents are supplied with water from the Chemususu dam.
“We are also conducting regular meetings with the people to inform them of the phenomenon as we appeal to them to stop irrigation along the river.