The Serengeti – Lake Victoria (SELVA) Sustainable Water Initiative seeks to address water security challenges to ecosystems and human populations in the Mara River Basin. The Mara River basin is an internationally shared resource between Kenya and Tanzania, however the overwhelming research and development focus to date has been within the Kenyan territory of the upper Mara. This project will focus on the lower Mara in Tanzania, which includes the Serengeti National Park, the Mara Wetlands, and the Lake Victoria coastline. The Mara River Basin drains some of the Earth’s most important biodiversity areas and supports some of the world’s most culturally diverse communities. Freshwater resources underpin the security and sustainability of ecosystems and human health, economy, and cultural traditions. Freshwater security is increasingly threatened by human development of land and water resources as well as by climate change.

The SELVA initiative will create a new platform for partnership in the Tanzanian territory of the basin, and will support efforts to understand and effectively manage the freshwater needs of the lower basin’s ecosystems and human populations now and in the future. The SELVA initiative complements existing projects in Kenya to address the Mara as an entire basin system and will coordinate with other projects to link both Tanzanian and Kenyan stakeholders and thereby provide opportunities for scaling up management considerations.

The Mara River Basin is currently among the most rapidly changing areas on Earth, and providing water security to ecosystems and human populations is critical to weathering these changes. The Mara represents a microcosm of the alterations occurring across the larger African landscape: a diverse terrestrial and aquatic fauna that is increasingly threatened by development and human engineered change, changing patterns of rainfall and temperature due to climate change, rapid expansion of irrigated agriculture, increased extractive activity such as mining, hydropower dam construction, and growing human populations. Each of these changes is directly linked to or has the potential to influence the amount, accessibility, and quality of freshwater in the Mara River.

SELVA is made possible through generous support from The MacArthur Foundation.  For information on MacArthur’s strategy and related efforts, see here: Conservation & Sustainable Development Strategy.