The major difference between rural and urban environment is the quality of air! It is only a fifteen minutes’ drive from Nyeri town to Chania village. This post is a short tribute to the legendary Wangari Maathai. Before we go there though, take look at this picture:
This is Chania River within the Chania Watershed in Nyeri. At about 2000 meters above sea level, the hilly terrain is covered by tea bushes and forest. Chania river is later joined by Zaina river, a small river famous for hiking because of the scenic view of Zaina falls. The Chania is covered by indigenous trees. It is also home to wild animals like the hyenas, leopards, and elephants among others. It was quite chilly when I got there, but the beautiful view triggered deep contemplation about nature/life and the invisible forces that balance it.
What is even more beautiful about Chania is its history. Not so long ago, Chania river had constantly reducing brown waters full of sediments. In the 1980s, a government official decided to allocate some of the lands in this area to farmers, because of its potential in productivity especially in the growing of tea. This, as you can imagine, was well received. The plans came underway and many of the hills (in the picture) were covered by farms and farm plantations. In Wangari Maathai’s book “Unbowed” she mentioned noticing the areas on the eastern side of the Aberdare losing its aesthetic value. Most of the trees were replaced by farms. Soon enough, the effects could be felt by water users; other than the brown waters, the water quantity of Chania river highly decreased.
Wangari Maathai, an activist at the core, decided to sensitize the farmers on causes of river sedimentation and quality reduction. In this case, unsustainable agriculture especially due to the slopy terrain caused increased soil erosion. This soil would be carried by runoff into the river, potentially decreasing its value. No sooner than later, the farmers too noticed that their activities duly changed their source of livelihood. After political rows over land allocation and environmental awareness, a peaceful juncture was met. The land was protected and conserved as a riparian zone. All farmers were duly compensated and moved to a different agricultural area within Nyeri. Simply put, a win-win scenario.
More than 1 million indigenous trees were replanted in this area by relevant stakeholders. Farmers, volunteers, foreign guests you name it! Even politicians came on board on this one. The result of working together, from all angles and directions was this: a cleaner Chania river. Even though it looks so small in the picture, the river grows in stealth and width. The people of Nyeri now have sufficient water for domestic and agricultural use, at an affordable price.
“Change begins with one but is sustained by many”
- Change begins with you
- All oppression is connected