This year’s World Water Day marks the one year anniversary of Coca-Cola’s more than US$1.5 million catalytic phase-two investment in the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund and three year anniversary of Coca-Cola’s seed investment of more than US$150,000 – one of the first major contributions to the fund by a private sector entity. 

In Kenya, The Coca-Cola Foundation (through its RAIN program) has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to launch the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund, the first Water Fund in Africa. Working with partners around the world, The Nature Conservancy has developed Water Funds that enable downstream water users to jointly invest in upstream land conservation and restoration, to secure improved water quality and ensure a sustainable water supply.

As rapid urbanization continues across Africa, city leaders and water utility providers often struggle to keep up with demand in the face of climate change and competing financial priorities. Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city and one of Africa’s most populous urban areas is no exception. Today, nearly 60% of Nairobi residents are water-insecure, meaning they lack adequate and reliable access to affordable and safe water nearby their residence. This forces many Nairobi residents to rely on informal water vendors for their water access.

The Upper Tana Watershed is the primary source of drinking water and hydropower for Nairobi’s over 3 million residents. It nourishes one of Kenya’s most important ecological systems and one of its most productive agricultural zones. In very real terms – it is Nairobi’s, and much of Kenya’s, lifeline. Nairobi, in turn, serves as a critical hub for East African trade, transit, and community productivity.

On the steep slopes of the Upper Tana Watershed in Murang’a County, lie over 300,000 smallholder farms. Scarcity of land and decreasing soil-productivity over time often forces farmers to shift their operations to cultivate the steeper lands uphill from their traditional plots. Rainfall and irrigation over these plots then causes soil to wash down into the river – not only leaching nutrients from the land and reducing soil productivity for the farmers, but also overwhelming Nairobi’s water treatment and hydropower facilities downstream with sediment and agri-chemicals. This in turn leads to equipment failure, high maintenance costs, and can even lead to water service interruption in Nairobi.

To address this, RAIN is supporting the Water Fund to equip over 20,000 farmers in the Upper Tana Watershed with the training, resources and technology access necessary to shift their production methods. The change in practices will reduce the amount of sediment and chemical runoff which reaches the waterways. 

This means working with farmers to improve their irrigation methods, plant trees and other indigenous plant species, and change their animal production practices to reduce riverbank deterioration. 

MEASURABLY IMPROVING LIVES, ECOSYSTEMS, AND ECONOMIES

By 2020, through RAIN’s support, The Fund will have reached nearly 630,000 people with improved water service levels; put 50,000 hectares of critical watershed land under improved agricultural practices and natural resource management; and economically empowered 20,000 women and youth.

The Water Fund will support the planting of over 200,000 trees in agricultural production zones across the Upper Tana Watershed’s forest reserves, riparian areas, and steep farmlands to prevent erosion. In total, these conservation activities will lead to an estimated reduction of over 1,580,000 tonnes of CO2e.  

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

The business case for the Water Fund demonstrates that a $10 million investment in source water protection activities for the Upper Tana region has the potential to return up to $21.5 million of improved economic productivity over 30 years. RAIN’s support of the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a strategic investment that reflects the core sustainability values of Coca-Cola and its commitment to protect and conserve water while empowering communities through water access.

Through making targeted catalytic investments such as these – RAIN provides the foundation needed to sustainably transform African communities, ecosystems, and economies.

Learn more about RAIN’s work here.