Water, forests and farms Quantifying the reliance of one ecosystem service on another

Sitting strategically in Kenya’s Rift Valley, the Mau Forest has been fraught with controversies for decades. It is the largest water catchment area in Kenya and feeds rivers that are lifelines to some 10 million people and many more animals.

These waterways are maintained through the Mau Forest at their headwaters, securing their flow and reducing volatile changes in water supply to ecosystems and people downstream.

The forest’s fertile soils now also host tea plantations, logging operations and settlements. Over the last two decades, the Mau Forest has lost a quarter of its size.

CIFOR scientist Mariana Rufino is leading a team assessing water flow and quality in areas of different land use in and around the Mau Forest. She believes the data will show that forest delivers the reliable water flow needed for growing crops.

Although the project is in its early stages, organizations such as Fair Trade and FSC are on board, looking at the possibility of combining certification schemes for agricultural and forest commodities with protection of the forest.