The Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund: Engaging business investment in Nature-based Solutions for water security

The Nature Conservancy
Published: 12 December 2019
Last edited: 12 December 2019
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The Upper Tana River in Nairobi Kenya supplies 95 percent of the water for Nairobi’s 4 million residents, and for another 5 million people living in the watershed. It also provides half of the country’s hydropower output. Upstream, intensive farming practices of more than 300,000 small-scale farmers cause the soil to wash into the river downstream. Not only does this affect farm productivity and ecosystem health, but also causes costly damage to hydropower infrastructure and Nairobi’s water supply.


To tackle the problem, the Nature Conservancy and its partners developed the Upper-Tana Nairobi Water Fund, four years ago. This financial and collaboration mechanism gathers public, private, and civil actors to fund, implement and monitor improvements for a sustainable watershed management. Upstream, TNC works with farmers to apply soil and water conservation techniques to prevent runoff and save water; the benefits are felt at the upstream and the downstream level.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Area-wide development
Freshwater ecosystems
River, stream
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Erosion prevention
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Sustainable financing
Water provision and management
Watershed management
Land and Forest degradation
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Lack of technical capacity
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company
Direct engagement with associations


Tana River District, Kenya


The success of this solution rests on the identification of key beneficiaries and stakeholders, and the collaboration of stakeholders to design the Water Fund. Thanks to the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund, 27 million more litres of water started flowing into Nairobi every day and, in the long term, reductions in the level of sediment in the river will improve the reliability and of Nairobi’s water supply.    Perhaps most importantly, the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund has given multiple stakeholders the opportunity to work collectively to manage and finance improvements in their shared water security.

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Water Funds The Nature Conservancy