The River Belongs to the People

Gordon Mumbo grew up in the small village of Kamuga, in Kenya’s Kisumu County. Year after year, he watched as frequent floods from one of Kenya’s major rivers, the Nyando, disturbed the peaceful flow of village life.

“In school we were reading about how the Dutch were able to control floods and reclaim land,” Mumbo says. “So I grew up wanting to be a water engineer and solve the flooding.”

After more than thirty years and two degrees in water, Mumbo has lived out that dream, enjoying a long career in water engineering. His work has taken him from Kenya’s capital of Nairobi to Honolulu, Hawaii to the banks of the Nile River. But now, for the first time since his childhood, Mumbo has returned to his birthplace: Kisumu County.

Mumbo’s current work as a regional Team Leader for the Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP), USAID’s flagship water security program, deals not with the Nyando River, but with the Mara. Like its sister the Nyando, the Mara River empties into Lake Victoria — but the path it takes there is a bit more complicated. Beginning at the Mau Escarpment — an impressive cliff along the western edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley — it meanders through Kenya and its neighbor Tanzania, contributing to food production, economic security and even tourism for both countries.

Read the full article in Global Waters Stories (on Medium).