Low-cost methods for monitoring water quality to inform upscaling of sustainable water management in forested landscapes in Kenya
Kenya (South-West Mau Forest)
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) GIZ Advisory Service on Agricultural Research for Development (BEAF) CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA)
Partners in Kenya
Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA) sub-regional office, Kericho Kenya Forest Service (KFS) James Finlay (Kenya) Ltd. Williamson Tea Kenya Ltd. Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs)
Partners in Europe
University of Giessen University of Lancaster
Christopher Martius, Team Leader, Climate change, Energy and Low-carbon Development, CIFOR
Citizen science in Kenya’s water towers
A simple, inexpensive way to monitor water across landscapes
Millions of rural and urban people rely on Kenya’s mountain forests for food, livestock fodder, woodfuel – and fresh water. But these forests – called ‘water towers’ – are being cleared for agriculture, charcoal and new settlements, affecting water supplies downstream. And seasonal rains are less predictable, making it a challenge for authorities to set yearly water plans and to deal with flash floods and drought.
Exactly how each type of land use affects the water isn’t known. To fill the data gap, CIFOR started monitoring water levels and quality in the Sondu Basin of South-West Mau in 2014 using automatic sensors. These generated the first ever precise data set of water flow and water quality information, available continuously over two years. But these automated stations are costly to install and maintain.
A new phase of the project is enlisting the help of those with the most intimate knowledge of local resources: the men and women who use the rivers and forests for daily living.
Locals have been trained to read water-level gauges installed along the river and send in their measurements by SMS. Most villagers have mobile phones, and while not everyone sees the benefit of participating, many are enthusiastic.
Water is key to life and should always be protected by all means. The daily readings and reporting will help plan for its security.
Teresa Adhiambo, Chair of the Sondu Water Resource Users Association
How more people can be enlisted to participate in the data collection, and how these ‘crowd-sourced’ data compare to the scientific data from the automated station is currently subject of a PhD study by a young Kenyan researcher. If the usefulness of the citizen data is confirmed, not only will a simple, low-cost way to inform sustainable water management planning have been found, it will also encourage communities to take an active role in managing their water resources.
So far, water-level readings sent in by local users match up with the high-resolution data from the automatic monitoring stations and with discharge measurements by the Water Resource Management Authority, showing that citizen science works.
Early gender lessons
Women visit the river daily to fetch water and wash clothes, making them ideal water monitors. But men are the ones sending the most data. As the project evolves, researchers are looking for ways to motivate all water users – women and men alike – to become citizen scientists.
Long-term data are needed before any conclusions can be drawn about how different land uses affect water in the Sondu Basin. Researchers are training local volunteers and members of Water Resource Users Associations to assess water quality and will compare results with the automatic sensor readings. They’re also exploring incentive mechanisms to get more people involved.
When we see the changes in water level we are able to know if the forests are being cleared.
Ensuring everyone has enough water is especially important in countries with high poverty rates and which are undergoing rapid economic development. Land use change can put stress on water availability and quality, as it has done in Kenya with the large-scale loss of forests.
The world is gearing up for action on climate change and sustainable
2016, CIFOR research showed how putting landscapes and forests at the fore can
promote integrated action with better outcomes for human well-being, equity and
Stepping up to the new climate and development agenda
Our new ten-year strategy evolved from a deep understanding of the many ways
contributes to sustainable development. Our work is grounded by a three-pillar approach that
spans six thematic work areas, which are aligned with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development
CIFOR and the SDGs
FOREST & HUMAN WELL-BEING
SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPES & FOOD
EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES, GENDER, JUSTICE & TENURE
CLIMATE CHANGE, ENERGY & LCD
VALUE CHAINS, FINANCE & INVESTMENTS
FOREST MANAGEMENT & RESTORATION
GLOBAL LANDSCAPES FORUM
CIFOR by the numbers
Pillar 1. Research for impact
204 Journal articles: 60% in Open Access journals
Visit through Google Books:
25% increase from 2015
Pillar 2. Capacity development
Pillar 3. Outreach and engagement
Memoranda of understanding
Letters of agreement
with strong gender focus
events organized or supported, with
times on Forests News
times on Forests News
CIFOR’s contribution to the global policy dialogue gained more international recognition this year.
out of 100 top Climate Think Tanks
International Center for Climate Governance
out of 95 top Environment Policy Think Tanks
Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program: Global Go To Think Tank Index Report
CIFOR and its partners contribute to the following global processes, frameworks, panels and conventions:
CIFOR launched a set of key performance indicators in 2016 to chart our impact through research, capacity development and engagement, and to measure our operational performance.
Where we work
Climate change, energy and low carbon development
Sustainable landscapes & food
Forest management & restoration
Forest and human well-being
Equal opportunities, gender, justice and tenure
Value chains, finance and investments
Gender across CIFOR’s work
CIFOR takes a rights-based approach to gender equality. Beyond the simple recognition that failing to understand local-level gender dynamics can skew research findings, we ground our work in the idea that all humans deserve an equal opportunity to thrive. Understanding gender dynamics is both a focus of specific research projects and a key aspect in all of CIFOR’s activities.
Things are still framed in terms of women as victims of climate change. This whole stereotyping needs to shift, and we should really focus on gender quality and women's' empowerment as a goal in their own right, not because victims need to be saved
Under the Paris Agreement, countries are ramping up to meet their climate change commitments while also moving toward their Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. CIFOR is working at the nexus of climate change, energy and low-carbon development to deliver integrated ecological, social and economic information to policy makers and practitioner communities in these countries. We also support, with information, analysis and tools, actors working in the international climate policy arena.
Forest communities have an intimate understanding of their natural resources and can manage them effectively – if they have the rights to their land and gain benefit from forests and trees. Women hold much of this knowledge and, when they are free to make key decisions, can help transform the physical and cultural landscape. And when land and forest tenure laws are clear, local and international investors will help sustainable forest-based enterprises grow.
CIFOR is working to help countries meet their restoration targets, as momentum builds for the Bonn Challenge, the World Resources Institute Initiative 20×20 and other global plans to restore millions of hectares of forest by 2020. Focusing on two main areas, diversified forest management and forest landscape restoration, this work aims to address factors that help or hinder rural people’s access to forest resources and to find more equitable ways to manage forests for better productivity.
Tens of millions of rural households in tropical countries gain significant income, food, fuel and shelter from forests. But this fact is often underappreciated or ignored by strict conservation approaches and poverty-reduction policies. This can lead to missed opportunities and unintended consequences that further drive forest loss and undercut rural livelihoods. A better understanding of how forests contribute to human well-being will give policy makers the evidence base they need to make effective decisions that support both forests and people.
One billion people worldwide rely to varying degrees on forests for food and income. Wild meat and freshwater fish are essential to the diets of some vulnerable rural communities. And both subsistence and industrial farming systems depend on trees and forests for water and climate regulation, pollination and pest control. As competition for land grows, countries are looking for strategies to lower poverty while building environmental resilience. Landscape approaches have the potential to resolve local challenges and meet national commitments.
The current push by private sector companies, governments and financial services providers to promote and invest in activities that contribute to sustainable development and reduce pressures on forests is driving a transformation in how timber, palm oil, soy, sugar and beef are produced. CIFOR aims to facilitate innovations in public policy, business models, private investments and finance to stimulate the sustainable and inclusive supply of timber from natural and planted forests, enhance sustainable production of high-value tree crops and reduce the impacts of agricultural expansion in forests.
CIFOR advances human well-being, equity and environmental integrity by conducting innovative research, developing partners’ capacity, and actively engaging in dialogue with all stakeholders to inform policies and practices that affect forests and people. CIFOR is a CGIAR Research Center, and leads the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). Our headquarters are in Bogor, Indonesia, with offices in Nairobi, Kenya, Yaounde, Cameroon, and Lima, Peru.
CIFOR leads the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry
CIFOR is currently a member of these CGIAR Research Programs:
CIFOR’s work is possible thanks to the financial support of our Funding Partners and the collaboration
of our Strategic Partners. We work closely with a range of local and international organizations
and institutions to deliver research projects with the greatest potential impact.