Today, 22 March 2018, is World Water Day. Like every year on the 22nd of March this day is about focusing attention on the importance of water. The theme for World Water Day 2018 is ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

In its World Water Development Report of the United Nations, released today, specific focus is put on so-called nature-based solutions. One of FutureWater’s projects in Kenya was highlighted in the report. The Nairobi Water Fund project explored nature-based solutions to overcome drinking water problems in Nairobi by implementing innovative soil and water management options that improved agricultural production for smallholder farmers and simultaneously reduced erosion and enhanced water flows to be used for drinking water supply in Nairobi. Johannes Hunink, one of the researchers: “We limit our thinking about solutions to water problems often to grey infrastructure (concrete). However, nature-based solutions are in some cases the better alternative”. Johannes emphasized that a one-solution-fits-all does not exist and that case by case the choice between grey and green options should be considered.

The project in Kenya, as referred to in the UN report, is called Nairobi Water Fund. The project was undertaken by FutureWater in collaboration with partners from the Netherlands (Wageningen) and Kenya. Financial support was obtained from The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The total project investment was US$ 10 million. The overall aim was to ensure that upstream farmers will manage their land and water using nature-based solutions to enhance water availability for downstream located Nairobi, the capital city with more than 4 million inhabitants.

Our current ThirdEye project in Kenya, where local operators are trained to use drones (flying sensors) is helping to implement the Nairobi Water Fund project. Martijn de Klerk, project leader, emphasized that ThirdEye closes the missing link between the more conceptual Water Fund and the daily reality of farmers. Martijn, just back from Kenya: “Farmers keep telling that the drone services clearly show them the positive impacts of their nature-based farming systems”.