“Conservation is often the simplest, most effective tool to help communities solve natural resource problems and improve their livelihoods.” —Fred Kihara
Fred Kihara grew up in the shadow of Kenya’s Aberdares range. Fred learned the value of water early in life through his tea-farming family’s reliance on their local stream.
Fred recently spoke with nature.org about his work to facilitate Africa’s first water fund, building on successful models in Latin America. Essentially, water users fund forest conservation that protects the water sources on which they depend.
nature.org: How did you first get involved in conservation work?
Fred Kihara: After college, I held a wide assortment of jobs, from managing a pig farm to being a county soil and water conservation officer. I learned the value of conservation to improve soil quality and protect important lands, waters and endangered species. Conservation is often the simplest, most effective tool to help communities solve natural resource problems and improve their livelihoods.
nature.org: Why were you interested in leading the water-fund effort in Kenya?
Fred: The Nature Conservancy’s proposed water fund, if successful, would be the first in Africa. I knew I would be willing to take the chances required to make such a new project successful.
nature.org: What’s the most rewarding or satisfying thing about your work?
Fred: My work involves sharing the idea of a water-fund partnership with diverse stakeholders — from local community leaders to municipal governments to large companies. I find it very satisfying to see their interest in the concept and in partnering with us and with one another to make it happen. So far so good, thanks to my Conservancy team that has supported me at every stage.
nature.org: What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Fred: After working in the field, living in small towns and walking to the office for a decade and a half, moving to Nairobi has been challenging. I’m still learning how to estimate the time I need to get through traffic and to the office!
nature.org: What are your hopes for the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund?
Fred: First, I hope the water fund becomes a reality! It’s also my hope that the water fund will remain the tool of choice for conservation work around the watershed, which Nairobi depends on for clean water and hydropower.