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The term “Water Towers” refers to montane forests-the mountainous regions that are the sources of water. A water catchment area/water towers collect and filter natural water including rain, dew and snow. It is the zone through which the rainwater and snow seeps to eventually provide base flow to rivers, lakes and spring water and also provides for groundwater recharge. Water towers can be described as the fountains of life and lungs of the country.

There are eighteen (18) gazetted waters towers in Kenya out of which are five (5) major ones namely; Mt. Kenya, Aberdares, Mau Complex, Mt. Elgon and Cherangany Hills. In addition, there are eleven (11) newly identified water towers ready for gazettement. Kenya’s Water Towers contribute to the economy through the Agricultural sector, urban development, tourism, energy production, national water supply as well industrial production.

Kenya's water towers are important because they collect rainwater, regulate river flows and prevent runoff, recharge ground-water aquifers, improve soil fertility, reduce soil erosion and sediment loads in river water, regulate local climatic conditions for commercial agriculture, and act as carbon reservoirs and sinks. In addition, these catchment areas are instrumental in climate regulation, mitigating floods, conservation of biological diversity, nutrients cycling and soil formation.

Water towers are limited natural resources and over exploitation will not only harm the current generation but future generations as well. These catchments are considered vital national assets because of their contribution to community livelihoods and the support they give to key sectors of the national economy including agriculture, energy, tourism, and industry. The water towers are the source of Kenya’s rivers that flow into lakes; Victoria, Turkana, Baringo, Nakuru, Natron as well as Naivasha. Hence the need to conserve the water towers.

Kenya’s water towers are faced by a number of challenges key among them: Agricultural expansion, deforestation, over grazing, charcoal production, forest fires, as well as ill-planned settlements.

The degradation of the water towers, largely through human actions, has disturbed the structure and function of these ecosystems that give Kenya’s biodiversity its distinct and diverse character. The consequences of this disturbance includes the loss of waterways, and clean water for the people, climate change and successive crop failure, floods, loss of wealth, the loss of species, increase in diseases, the diminishment of Kenya’s famous natural capital. Deforestation has reduced forest coverage from 12% in the 1960s to 4% in 1980s and currently 6.9%. This has affected the ability of Kenya’s forest ecosystems to provide critical ecosystem services. Through deforestation and illegal logging Kenya loses close to Kshs. 6 billion annually.

Studies have shown that climate change risks in Kenya are characterized by increase in average annual temperature, more frequent droughts, increase in mean annual precipitation in the highlands and decreased mean annual precipitation in the highlands. These risks have the following main consequences on Kenya’s Water Towers: shift in species location, drying of forests leading to greater risk of forest fires, decline in productivity of closed canopy forests and decreased levels of water in our water sources.

The aim of the EU funded Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme is to improve the quality and quantity of ecosystem services provided by Kenya's water towers through increased forest cover, improved landscape and natural resource management, and waste management systems leading to increased benefits to local communities from forest, agriculture and agro-forestry land use systems. And to secure Kenya’s water supply for present and future generations as there is no life without water.
The programme be implemented over a period of 6 years from 2014 with a preparatory phase and will end in 2020. The total funding envelop is Euro 31 Million which corresponds to around Kshs 3.6 billion.This Programme recognizes that Kenya has a two tier government system and will work at both National and County levels. The following counties will benefit from this Programme: Bungoma, Busia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nandi, Siaya, Trans- Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Vihiga and West Pokot. 8 of the counties have forest coverage under 10% whereas Bungoma, Elgeyo Marakwet and Trans- Nzoia have forest coverage above 10%.
The programme will also focus on implementing national policies such as the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), Climate Bill, and National Adaptation Plan (NAP) and assist Kenya to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Of the five major water towers, Mt Elgon and Cherangany Hills in western Kenya have received relatively less attention and funding. The Gok-EU joint Water Tower Programme will therefore focus on these two water towers and their ecosystems.
The planned activities will focus on improving landscape and natural resource management, increasing livelihood opportunities and having in place efficient waste management systems. This will lead to increased benefits to local communities from forest, agriculture and agro-forestry land use systems around Mt. Elgon and Cherangany Hills ecosystems.

This refers to an adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects that moderate, harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as “change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over time periods”. Climate change is what we experience when climatic conditions permanently shift either upwards or downwards of the average. Shifts in the start or end of the rainfall season, the length of the season, the number of rainy days, the number, the length and the intensity of dry spells, or changes in the total seasonal rainfall, among others, can also signify climate change. Climate change is not always a shift in the mean climatic conditions, but can also exhibit itself as a change in the intensity and frequency of extreme climatic events, such as drought, floods, storms and strong winds, among others.

This refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases.

The acronym for ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forest and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in the developing countries.