MaMaSe: the Mau Mara Serengeti Sustainable Water Initiative for Kenya

MaMaSe promotes water-wise economic development that lifts people out of poverty and sets them on a sustainable path to improved wellbeing and self-reliance.

Water is key to the socio-economic development and environmental sustainability in the Mara River Basin, shared by Kenya and Tanzania. Rains supporting the dry-season flow, on which people, cattle, and wildlife depend, are largely confined to only 10% of the basin headwaters of the Mau. Headwater forests have historically enhanced rainwater infiltration and stabilized soils, but encroachment, deforestation and agricultural practices have diminished infiltration and promoted runoff and erosion. Farmers report more erratic rains and increasing occurrence of drought. Small farmer incomes are low and unreliable. Downstream users experience dwindling rivers in dry seasons and more extreme floods in wet seasons. The region’s extraordinary biodiversity is suffering too. Migration enables wildlife to cope with water scarcity, but encroachment into migration pathways and fencing are blocking animals from the water.

The recently started MaMaSe Initiative aims to improve water safety and floodplain management in the Mara River Basin in support of poverty reduction, sustainable economic growth, and ecosystem conservation. It will pursue this through a broad-based, basin-scale public-private-partnership, focussing on improved water management in the main economic activities: agriculture, cattle ranching, and wildlife-based tourism. It will strengthen the knowledge base and provide a platform for engagement of new partners. The MaMaSe Initiative is carried out by a consortium of Kenyan and international partners, financially supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi. Its activities will 1) update the official Mara Catchment Management Strategy and Sub-Catchment management plans, 2) strengthen the capacity of water authorities to strategy and plans, 3) support the protection and restoration of forest and rangeland ecosystems, 4) pilot new and more sustainable forms of economic development, 5) increase and stabilize the financial resources for water management, and 6) make knowledge available for wider application in the Mara Basin and across the region.


Alterra is involved in several aspects of the project. For example better farming practices or smart water management. The core of our activities is aimed at economic development as a means to create a healthy river basin. Therefore we will help involved authorities, companies and communities with current business activities that can be further developed and new innovative business models which can be introduced. By offering alternatives to current commodities we can help achieve access to more or larger markets for products that put less pressure on the depleting natural resources.

The method we use is that of Green Economic Growth, which develops and appraises different business models and innovations. We will show the benefits as well as the impacts of business models in the river basin, in order to achieve both economic growth and regional sustainable development. This will guarantee business models that can sustain themselves beyond project lifetime. Visualisation is an important part of business model development.