Payment for Water Ecosystem Service at Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, Kenya.

Kijabe Environment Volunteers
Published: 08 November 2019
Last edited: 08 November 2019
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The Kikuyu Escarpment Forest Reserve covers an area of 37,000 hectares. The forests provide important ecosystems service among them a critical watershed. However, the catchment faces serious threat of environmental degradation occasioned by encroachment into water catchments leading to water stress. To ensure sustainable financing for the protection of the forest catchment, the Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) in partnership with stakeholders from businesses, government, learning institutions and community institutions initiated payment for water ecosystem (PES) scheme. The water PES sought to address catchment degradation, poor land management, cultivation on riverbanks, increased water pollution and receding water levels on dams. The solution presents payment of water ecosystems services scheme at the catchment spanning over 3 years at Kikuyu Escarpment financed by Critical Ecosystem Partnership (CEPF).


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Gender mainstreaming
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Sustainable financing
Other theme
Local governance of natural resources
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Ecosystem loss
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
Other targets
Direct contribution to the AFR100 (the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) on enabling conditions such as incentives and value chains
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company


Kiambu, Central Province, Kenya
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The solution addressed the lack of a sustainable financing mechanism for the Kikuyu Escarpment Forest. The upstream community institutions (mainly the CFAs and WRUAs) struggle to protect forests and rivers with limited or no resources. The project  increased private sector financing through  partnerships with Community Forest Associations (CFAs) to restore water ecosystem Services. The ultimate target was to benefit biodiversity, increase water quantity and quantity, reduce erosion and siltation in water reservoirs and ultimately reduce poverty and other drivers of forest loss.





The beneficiaries are community (Community Forest Associations, Water Resource Users Associations) businesses (water utilities companies, farm and industries downstream), Government (county and national) and Kenya Forest Service

How do the building blocks interact?

The upstream community (producers or community in charge of ecosystems services) engages the downstream community, mainly the companies, farms, and industries.


The communities’ institutions are responsible for the state of the forests and the services they provide. The Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) are responsible for the state of the rivers that have their source in the forest. They shoulder the burden of conserving the forest catchment.


On the other hand, the region has a number of potential businesses downstream benefiting from water from this forest. They include water company’s water service providers, tea estates, agricultural farms, food, beverages and milk Processors. 


Both communities upstream and downstream have to engage to ensure continued sustainable supply of water.



The initiative enabled sustainable flow and quality of water to downstream communities, companies and farms served by Kikuyu Escarpment catchment. The catchment was restored and managed sustainably managed to provide water ecosystem service. The restoration was through catchment rehabilitation, strengthening of community institutions (Community Forest Associations and Water Resource Users Associations). The improved protection and management actions by stakeholders and partners were implemented to guarantee conservation benefits on 12,000 hectares of the Kikuyu Escarpment. This was made possible by business transfer to WRUAs and CFAs of $10,000 to protect the Kikuyu Escarpment watershed. In addition, more businesses embraced PES scheme through increased financial contributions for watershed management. Finally, the capacity of CFAs and WRUAs to engage businesses were enhanced through training in governance, negotiations and leadership.




Kijabe Environment Volunteers

The Kikuyu Escarpment forests lies 50 Km North-West of Nairobi, Kenya. Inside the Kikuyu Escarpment forest, are a series of forest reserves, which cover 37,000 hectares, making it one of the main forest areas within Kenya. The forests provide important ecosystem services namely cultural, provision of water, products and regulation of climate. The forest forms the upper catchment area of major Kenyan rivers.


Despite catchment importance, it faced a number of threats. The situation was characterized by unsustainable human activities that were degrading the catchment and reducing its environment value. Following this increasing pressures in the forest occasioned by encroachment into water catchments, over grazing, poor farming practices, extractions of forest products, cultivation in riparian areas, weak enforcement of regulations among others, the water was under stress.


The situation led to unintended consequences among them reduced water flow downstream, pollution of rivers, water coloration (turbidity), siltation in the dams and rivers, reduced amount of water in the water reservoirs dams, erosion upstream and water borne diseases. The consequences were borne by downstream communities mainly industries, farmers and livestock. Further consequences downstream included competition and conflicts of water resources between animals, farmers and industries. It also resulted in water rationing and high cost of water treatment to industries and water service providers.


In its conservation activities it was found that water ecosystem service is critical to all forms of life and communities downstream. The diminishing water made the stakeholders to come together to reverse the trend.  It is in this light that KENVO initiated the payment for water ecosystem service with support from Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).


The Payment for water ecosystem service initiative ensured communities involved in the management, conservation and protection of the watershed receive payment from the beneficiaries of the services from the watershed. It thus aims at establishing a business relationship between the ecosystem services producers (community) and beneficiaries (industries downstream) for mutual benefit.


Contributed by

Julius Kariara Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO)

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