Sand harvesting and trade gained popularity as a source of quick cash in Makueni and other arid and semi-arid areas that harbour high quality sand. With a rapidly growing construction industry in towns like Nairobi, Thika and Athi-river and the county’s proximity to these towns aided by the Nairobi Mombasa Highway increased sand harvesting from Makueni.
Unregulated sand harvesting results to reduced availability of water in riverbeds, drying of boreholes, increases soil erosion among other environmental issues. These, aggravated by effects of climate change, lead to reduction in agricultural productivity leading to loss of livelihoods
Sand trade brought a myriad of social problems in Makueni including deaths resulting from conflicts, increased school dropout rates among the youth, deteriorating security and drug and substance abuse rose due to increased expendable income for young men.
In this wake, H.E the Governor Kivutha Kibwana banned commercial sand harvesting in the County and appointed a task force in 2014 to look into the matters of sand harvesting and how the sand resource can be harnessed for socio-economic development. A key recommendation to enact a legislation to guide sand matters in the County was adopted and this led to the enactment of the Makueni County Sand Conservation and Utilization Act, 2015 that formed the Makueni County Sand Conservation and Utilization Authority as the lead agency for the County.
CORE FUNCTIONS OF MCSCUA
- Supervise and coordinate all matters relating to sand conservation and utilization in the County;
- Promote the integration of sand related environmental consideration into development policies, plans, programmers and projects;
- Undertake and co-ordinate research, investigation and surveys in the field of Sand Conservation and utilization, and collect, collate and disseminate findings;
- Ensure rehabilitation of the sand harvested sites and other environmental damage associated with harvesting and transportation of sand within the County;
- Licensing and registration of all persons who wish to engage in any sand utilization activities
Progress in sand conservation and regulated utilization
In the last three years, the Authority, in partnership with the Africa Sand Dam Foundation, has constructed eight sand dams across rivers Kaluku, Ikolya, Usi Unene, Ngutwa, Kiboko and Ilengeni,
To conserve sand and ensure sustainable utilization and equitable sharing of benefit accruing from sand, the Authority has:
- Carried out rigorous awareness creation on the importance of sand conservation and sustainable utilization;
- Enhanced enforcement to curb unregulated sand harvesting;
- Enhanced community participation through creation of sub county and ward sand management committees;
- Designated sand harvesting sites;
Similarly, regulated sand harvesting has led to natural rejuvenation of rivers and streams without much investment infrastructure development. Additionally, other actors investing in sand dams’ construction have confidence that there will be sustainable utilization.
Benefits Of Sand Conservation
- Provide for natural filtration of water flowing through the riverbed
- Provide a source of water that is protected from the breeding of mosquitoes and other insects
- Increased sand in rivers provides for water retention, hence increases water availability
- Decreased riverbed erosion
- Increased agribusiness in the riparian land due to availability of water