“One of the most important things is to be with nature, understand what you are fighting for. Whether it’s a mountain, urban creek, or Local Park, maintain a connection with nature and it will help you believe and continue to believe.”Bob Brown
Being one with nature is important. When was the last time you visited a green space or protected area near you? When was the last time you heard the birds call or/and sing? Not literally heard the sounds, but that they reminded you of something that is way bigger than you and that you are part of; nature. When was the last time you marveled at the sunrise or the sunset and even the moon? There are simple ways to connect with nature, not necessarily going to Mara and witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration.
I’m always for, first learn about where you live before you decide to venture into other areas.
Let’s talk about wetlands. Specifically, Ondiri Wetland. A green space so close to my current residence, I highly doubt if most people who call Kikuyu home know about its existence let alone it’s importance. However, this will change soon.
Ondiri Wetland is Kenya’s only Quaking Bog – a wetland that has accumulated peat (a deposit of dead plant material or macrophytes) which moves when one walks on the surface. According to Friends of Ondiri Wetland Kenya, in the early 19th Century, the wetland used to be an open lake known as the Old Lake which later became known as Ondiri as a result of language change by the Agikuyu who are the main ethnic group in the region.
Located close to Kikuyu Town, the wetland unimaginably forms the headwaters of the Nairobi River within the Athi drainage basin. You need to visit the wetland to witness the manifestation of a whole river. Challenges such as deforestation and encroachment of the land around the wetland have faced this distinctive wetland. The wetland is also a recharge for Kikuyu Springs and also the source of water for residents of Kikuyu.
Now more than ever, our current situation has made me recognize the priceless gems right at my doorstep. With a free Saturday to explore I decided why not visit Ondiri. I can even say the universe had carefully planned this day because the coincidences that happened were unique. As we walked through the bog, which was filled with more water on the makeshift path, water constantly got into our shoes. I have been to Ondiri many times before but this time been a small crowd of three I saw the wetland with different eyes as I was the only one who had been there. All I could think about is the immense possibilities and uniqueness of this space.
After “conquering” the wetland and managing to stay in Kikuyu and not end up in Naivasha as myth states, we decided to sit on the rocks and be captivated by the beauty with just an entire road network nearby. To get a better view of the wetland we sat on an old water pump station just observing. I couldn’t fail to notice the Augur Buzzards enjoying the air space, the constant chatter and movement of the Common Waxbills, the sneak peek of the Common Moorhen, and the Malachite Kingfisher which was moving back and forth. Not to forget to mention the moment an Augur Buzzard flew in with prey and another Buzzard followed it to the tree where it had perched to possibly take the prey. To crown the day, a group of scientist came to collect some data and it was a perfect opportunity to see what was beneath the open water sections of the wetland and the cycle of life this one ecosystem hold. I now have a curious young scientist in the house, least to say.
Ondiri wetland is currently facing numerous challenges from pollution, both plastic waste, chemical waste from nearby greenhouses and sewage waste, land encroachment, illegal grass harvesting, burning of the wetland and lack of ownership of the land. Some of these challenges such as harvesting of grass are becoming a thing of the past.
For Friends of Ondiri Wetland, “to protect Nairobi River, we must start from the source”. One challenge at a time. Protecting Ondiri from all the current challenges and creating the needed awareness will go a long way. Currently, Friends of Ondiri Wetland Kenya is working towards fencing the wetland to prevent further encroachment and also creating sensitization centre to educate people en-mass on the importance of the wetland.
A serious visit to Ondiri Wetland just to observe, think, and seek solutions was a reminder of the importance of nature at my backyard. In all its beauty, wonder, and mysteriousness, nature all across the world has been moving on swiftly with our current state of affairs. This time around with close to no foreign tourists, the majority of Kenyans are flocking to parks, reserves, and forests to marvel at nature and wildlife.
With the wildebeest migration, we cannot fail to see its beauty just as people in Kenya which is quite a unique moment. We should always be reminded that these green spaces and protected areas will always be here especially when we wholly and truthfully seek to protect them not for tourists but for us, the people who have been born and breed in these spaces and wildlife.
Which protected area or green space is near you that we can learn about? Even if it’s the one and only Masai Mara we would love to hear your story.
Images courtesy of Tobias Odhacha