The main river that flows north from Nanyuki and the Aberdares through Laikipia is dry. In the terrible drought of 2000 the river stopped momentarily but resumed quite quickly. Yet now we find ourselves in a rather typical year with a river that has been dry for several months. The wildlife is suffering terribly and I worry for the Hippos and the crocodiles that could be extirpated from the entire drainage should these conditions persist.
The main problem now is not weak short rains but too many small farmers pumping from the river upstream. A friend who is in a Naro Moru water association upstream said that in a given short stretch of river near them they counted 400 small Honda pumps taking illegaly from the river. These farmers then dig holding ponds which they then use to irrigate their fields. Many people have taken the opportunity to blame the larger farms. While they must share a bit of this burden the majority of large farms are highly regulated by the government and must not only keep within given guidelines but also practice efficient irrigation techniques (drip etc.) The small farmers practice no conservation and they are sucking our part of the world dry. Many in our area (Samburu and Masai who are pastoral people and depend on the same water for their herds), particularly the younger men have spoke about walking the river upstream and burning out every pump they find. I sympathize with their frustration.