Category Archives: Wetlands

THE TRIP TO TANA DELTA; THE UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE!

On Tuesday morning of the 9th of February, our team of four set out on the journey to Tana Delta for the annual water bird count. We drove north from Watamu for about four and a half hours, reaching the end of the road mid-afternoon.  There, we boarded a small boat that took us down the river to the lodge where we were to stay for our two nights, right on the mouth of the river. It was a really amazing experience, travelling by boat through beautiful mangroves and sand dunes to reach our destination. We were the only people staying at the lodge at that time and it felt very isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. On our arrival we quickly put our bags down, grabbed our binoculars and headed for the beach to see what birds we could count before sundown. This was my very first time conducting a bird count, and I quickly saw how knowledgeable and experienced Kirao, Juma, and Albert were, as I watched them identify and count the different species we saw with ease.

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The next day was even more successful as we got up early and headed out to count water birds in the fresh water channels of the river. We had to go back and travel by car through thick bush and bumpy roads to where the boat would pick us up. We commenced day two of our counting in the morning, and we didn’t stop until past fourteen hours for snacks; just to refuel our system for the remaining portion. Never before had I seen such an abundance of birds in one area and in such a diverse range of species as well. Before we had been in the boat for long, we were already counting great and Cattle egrets, White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Open-billed Storks, Black-crowned Night Herons, Pied Kingfishers and Water Thicknees in hundreds. Not to mention the endless number of Spur-winged Plovers! There seemed to be a pair or flock of them around every corner we turned. Other great sightings we had that day included Long-toed Lapwing, African Darter, Goliath Heron, Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincole, and African Skimmer.

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We even came across a very large group of hippos, watching us curiously as we peered at some birds through our scope. So, after a very successful day we headed back to the lodge, tired from the long hours spent in the sun, for a well-earned rest.

On our last morning came with lots of high hopes as we wade through the mangrove channels of the salt water areas in the delta. This took us through more mangrove areas and even out onto some mudflats. Like the day before, there was no shortage of birds for us to count. Terek Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Grey Plover and many more were seen in abundance over the course of the morning. We even managed to spot a Western Reef Egret, a very uncommon species at the coast! When we got to the mudflats, we couldn’t resist hoping out of the boat for a while to try and catch a better glimpse of a group of gulls. It really was a lot of fun trudging through deep mud with our scope and binoculars counting birds as we went! By then, I had had around thirty lifers as I had no more space on my personal list of birds! After washing our feet off in the river we rushed back to the lodge and grabbed our things before taking the long drive back down to Watamu, thus concluding an extremely successful trip to the Tana Delta.

Prepared by,

Tim Curie,

Science & Conservation Volunteer.

NOTE THE RESULTS; THE HARD WORK PUT IN SPITE THE HARDSHIP TO BE ENDURED IS WHAT COUNTS…2016 WATERFOWL COUNTS

Our just concluded waterfowl counts for 2016 saw us record sixty one species. The 23rd and 24th January 2016 started on a high note when we started off with Malindi harbor, Gongoni, and Sabaki River Mouth. Day 2 covered counts in Lake Jilore, Lake Mbaratum and Lake Chemchem. We endured long moments of standing under the heat and on the tiresome but fun mud in Sabaki. Climbing up and down the steep mountains in Lake Mbaratum and Lake Chemchem did not make us stop at anything rather we diligently counted the birds, with a dedication that can only emanate from the heart. However, the difficulties were nothing compared to the electrifying moments that characterized the spotting of rare bird species, among them Green Sandpiper, Osprey and a very rare species at the coast, the Grey-headed Gull.

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With a crew of 12 people on day one and 7 people on the second day, 5 species with the largest numbers were counted. They were Curlew sandpiper-3751, Common ringed plover-921, Greater sand plover-540, lesser sand plover-773 and Crab plover-656.

A whole year has completely changed Lake Mbaratum and Lake Chemchem. It was sad to notice how population growth and effects of global warming have dried up the two lakes and chased away the birds. The communities have taken over by firing up the grass that was grown around the lakes with reasons of farming, and the too much hot weather has dried up the lakes. The places look like deserts now and it’s sad to say that not unless we experience very long and heavy rains in the near future, there is nothing that can be done to them.

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All in all, the exercise was completed on 24th evening and as we left Lake Chemchem very tired and worn out, we still were very happy that we recorded a good number of species. We thank the whole crew that joined us during the exercise, including Kenya Wildlife Service (Gede Station) Mida Creek Guides, Arabuko Sokoke Forest Guides Association and Turble Bay who supported us with means of transport and providing us with snacks and water.

Locally Managed Marine Areas.

A cocktail of human induced local and global disturbances are threatening the health of marine ecosystems altering the ecological and economic roles that these ecosystems play and weakening the livelihood of many coastal communities that depend on these resources. Various inputs by local authorities have often been employed with little success. Government agencies due to limited resources and capacity among other factors have more often failed to effectively manage marine ecosystems even with important tools such as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) have in the recent past been successfully employed to substitute the top-down management approach.

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LMMAs are initiatives that empower local communities to partly or wholly manage their marine and coastal resources. They have been successful in protection of marine biodiversity as well as providing of social-economic benefits to local communities through alternative sources of livelihoods. The secret of LMMAs effectiveness lies in the inclusiveness of local communities that directly rely on marine resources from setting up of the areas to management and ultimately reaping both the short-term and long-term benefits. Through assistance, from local authorities, Non Governmental Organizations and other stakeholders, local communities can be made aware of the problems facing their areas which in most instances they do understand and empowered to manage their resources. With strong considerations of their social structures and livelihoods they set up rules and regulations they use in their resources utilization which can be periodically reviewed and adapted to changing conditions. Because they have been involved throughout the process they have a sense of ownership and therefore feel responsible for the well-being of the resources.
Sharing of successes of such initiative with marine resources users from other areas can also be a sure way of outreach to other communities increasing these areas and having a Locally Managed Marine Areas network, which will ensure sustainable use of marine resources. LMMAs have been effective in Asia and different parts of Western Indian Ocean (WIO) such as Madagascar and Tanzania.

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At the coast of Kenya in Kilifi County one such outstanding initiative is Kuruwitu conservation and welfare association. Starting as a clearly degraded marine ecosystem, the area has experienced tremendous increase in biodiversity within a relatively short time. This has opened other sources of income and addressed not only biodiversity value of this area but also socio-economic benefits and poverty alleviation.
With most marine areas facing environmental threats such as diversity lose and habitat degradation, LMMAs are offering a new leeway in which communities can come together and manage their marine resources.

Teamwork, Large numbers and Rarities during the national waterfowl count 2014

Waterfowl count

They were wonderful days filled with new experiences and fun moments; Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th Jan 2014 when A Rocha was spearheading the waterfowl count for the National Museums of Kenya. Turtle Bay Hotel supported A Rocha with transport and catering while students from Pwani University and volunteers from Mida Creek aided the A Rocha team to do the counting. Our efforts covered the main sites ranging form Gongoni to Mida including Lake Jilore and Sabaki River Mount. The team had unifying moments as we all marveled at the beautiful creation of God. A sky filed with over 3000 Lesser Flamingos or the splendid colors of the Malecite Kingfisher. We endured long moments of standing under the heat as we diligently counted the birds, with a dedication that can only emanate from the heart. However, the difficulties were nothing compared to the electrifying moments that characterized the spotting of rare bird species. Among them Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron, Common Snipe and a very rare species at the coast the Grey-headed Gull. Furthermore, it was a learning experience for all of us especially for those joining the exercise for the first time. We thank God for making the 2014 NMK waterfowl count a success!

New Ramsar site for Kenya – Tana River Delta

The wildlife-rich Tana River Delta has been the focus of a lot of controversy over the past five years or so with major (and continuing) threats of sugarcane and Jatropha plantations for biofuels, oil exploration and other developments. Most recently there has been some serious violence linked to land ownership and use issues with many people displaced and a number killed. For many years there has been a plan to have the delta recognised as a Ramsar site which gives it additional high level recognition that it is an internationally important wetland for both biodiversity and as a resource for humans and thus should be conserved – or rather, in the words of the Ramsar Convention, it should be conserved and used wisely “through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”

On 12th October the Tana Delta Ramsar Site was announced as Kenya’s 6th Ramsar site. This comes as a result of a lot of hard work by Kenya Wildlife Service who took the lead in the process with significant support from KenWeb and the Kenya Wetlands Forum amongst others.

The email that was circulated read as follows:

“The Secretariat is very pleased to announce that Kenya has designated the Tana River Delta as a Wetland of International Importance. As summarized by Ramsar’s MS Ako Charlotte Eyong, from the accompanying RIS, the Tana River Delta Ramsar Site (163,600 hectares, 02°27’S  040°17’E), an Important Bird Area (IBA) in Coast Province, is the second most important estuarine and deltaic ecosystem in Eastern Africa, comprising a variety of freshwater, floodplain, estuarine and coastal habitats with extensive and diverse mangrove systems, marine brackish and freshwater intertidal areas, pristine beaches and shallow marine areas, forming productive and functionally interconnected ecosystems.

This diversity in habitats permits diverse hydrological functions and a rich biodiversity including coastal and marine prawns, shrimps, bivalves and fish, five species of threatened marine turtles and IUCN red-listed African elephant (Loxodonta africana), Tana Mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus), Tana River Red Colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus rufomitratus) and White-collared Monkey (Cercopithecus mitis albotorquatus). Over 600 plant species have been identified, including the endangered Cynometra lukei and Gonatopus marattioides.

As one of the only estuarine staging posts on the West Asia – Eastern Africa coastal flyway, it is a critical feeding and wintering ground for several migratory waterbirds such as waders, gulls and terns. The main human activities include fishing, small-scale family-oriented agriculture, mangrove wood exploitation, grazing, water supply, tourism and research (ongoing research on the protection and monitoring of breeding turtles and the conservation of dugongs).

Kenya presently has six Ramsar Sites, covering an area of 265,449 hectares.”

 A map of the new Ramsar site is given below (taken from the Ramsar website):

 

Great potential from high-level government planning team visit to Tana River Delta

On Thursday and Friday last week the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Team met for an all day meeting that included most of the relevant governmental ministeries: Water & Irrigation, Agriculture, Env & Mineral Resources, Information & Communication, Fisheries, Finance, and Lands together with NEMA, a large delegation from the Office of the Prime Minister, KWS, Kenya Forest Service and then NGO’s including NatureKenya (who catalysed the whole thing) together with RSPB and BirdLife International and some Dutch delta management expert consultants in particular from Deltares (a not-for-profit knowledge institute). It was hugely encouraging to see and hear the positive take from the government regarding developing a national Board to deal with deltas nation-wide starting with the Tana River Delta. An introduction was given to the SEA process (Strategic Environmental Assessment) which would appear to be an excellent approach to major developments in assessing the overarching impact it might have on the environment, economy and local communities.

The full day of meeting was followed by yesterday – a field trip right into the heart of the delta to actually get to see what it looks like and especially to meet some of the community groups and hear their issues. Strict instructions were given on what time we were leaving, 7:30am – and anyone not there then would be left behind – so I got up early & left in a hurry… forgetting hat and sunglasses… and of course got there to end up waiting for over an hour! A good chance to talk with Kristy who is employed by the Delta Dunes Camp to work with the Lower Tana River Delta Conservation Trust that is trying to set up a conservancy that can be used for tourism as well as protect and conserve some of the remaining wildlife – especially the elephant, lion, topi, hippo and birdlife.

We piled into three buses and headed for Garsen on the Tana River where the road for Lamu crosses the river. After a stop to greet and brief the District Commissioner for Tana River District, we headed to the TARDA guest house for tea before being divided into groups for visiting three different sites and community groups.

stopping by the DC’s office

Serah Munguti organising participants

I ended up in the group that went to meet with the Lower Tana Delta Conservancy Trust. This was a very interesting meeting with about 200 community members where the key issues raised were firstly getting the land back that had been grabbed by outsiders – the ranch was put up for auction earlier in the year.

Welcome committee from the ladies at Marafa

Another issue was getting rid of the squatters that the MP had brought onto the southern area of the land in order to get votes (I was told this from two different sources that same day). They are clearing forest and killing the wildlife and basically destroying the area. Another issue was the huge number of cattle being brought in from outside the delta and finishing off the grass and adding massive pressure to the already stretched resources of grass and water. They were also keen that the river be re-routed to it’s original channel that flowed past where they are based – it now flows c.10kms away and they no longer experience the regular flooding that would happen annually.

Peter Odhengo, Office of the PM speaking to LTDC Trust
It was excellent to hear their views and I hope the government ministries heard what was being said and that action will be taken. The other groups had a very different experience, especially the group that went to Dida Waride – where the people had been primed beforehand by those against the planning initiative to condemn and reject the whole process. It’s a little uncertain quite what their problem was though one thing for sure was they wanted TARDA, the sugar-cane project, to give back their land and to hand back the actual title deed – and to have it now, not next week! It’s hugely short-sighted of those behind the stirring as this process is fully intending to ensure the local community benefit suggesting there are personal benefits to gain from those doing it… Anyone out there who prays… we need to pray that  these people would see the sense of the planning initiative and would support it whole heartedly. There’s a lot of potential for real good to happen, but if a small faction is against it, in time they can cause a lot of problems.

Paul Matiku of NatureKenya addressing the group
As should have been expected, we got back to the place we were to have lunch, not by 2pm but 4:30pm and ended up leaving nearer 6 and I got home just after 10pm in the end…! A communique was put together to make a statement about the intention of the team gathering. I’ll try and get this onto the tanariverdelta.org website in due course.

Forest land in Tana River Delta clarified as protected under KFS & not for sale

Another of the majorly contentious issues in the Tana River Delta over the past year or more has been the sale of land in a pretty underhand sort of way – ‘public’ auction of ranches yet behind closed doors and with the prerequisite that you had already paid something in the region of Ksh 1 million in advance. Many of the actual community members on the ground in the delta are furious that their leaders on some of the committees etc have been selling the land to big investors for biofuels and other crops without consulting them. 

The following notice was published in the Daily Nation recently which indicates clearly that land that actually falls under the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has been included in this scam. Here KFS is clarifying the situation and making a statement regarding the sale and purchase of any of this land. This can only be a good thing for the preservation of the forests on Tana River Delta.

Integrated Conservation Research at Sabaki – the results are in!

It’s been 4 months since I departed Sabaki with armloads of data and a head-full of how to get at the core of conservation issues at this charismatic, unique, and under-valued estuary. Now, it’s more clear than ever, Sabaki River Mouth is a vital shared resource for people and waterbirds. Research to quantify the actual economic, social, and ecological value of wetlands enables us, as conservationists, to put conservation issues on the map of politicians, policy-makers, and civil society.

White-faced Whistling Ducks coming in to roost on the Sabaki River - photo Kate England

White-faced Whistling Ducks coming in to roost on the Sabaki River - photo Kate England

The illegal land-grabbing which occurred in 2010 at Sabaki (see previous blogs) and the proposed biofuel developments in neighboring Important Bird Areas (IBAs, Dakatcha Woodlands and Tana River Delta – see blog below) highlight the imminent need for policy-informing research and progressive conservation of these and other Kenyan IBAs. Nearby IBAs, Arabuko-Sokoke and Mida Creek, have been host of highly successful community-integrated conservation programs (ASSETS, the Mida Creek Boardwalk) – and more good news – Stipulations in Kenya’s new constitution (ratified 2010) include the need to redress unfair land allocations. Now, more than ever, is there promise for community-based conservation initiatives on the Kenyan coast.

Local guide Michael Kadenge carrying the scope along the banks of Sabaki at high-tide - photo Beccy Johnson
Local guide Michael Kadenge carrying the scope along the banks of Sabaki at high-tide – photo Beccy Johnson

As a master’s student from the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), I worked in partnership with A Rocha Kenya, the (52-member strong) Sabaki River Estuary Youth Group (SREYG), the local community, tourists and visiting students at Sabaki to collect baseline data on estuary use, ecotourism potential and threats to Sabaki’s waterbirds. My dedicated and highly driven research assistants included active SREYG members Joseph Mangi and Michael Kadenge. Further support was provided by the village mzee Sammy, Samuel Mweni, and Patrick Charo. Two volunteers (Gus Keys and Beccy Johnson) joined us for the final week of field-work, helping to collect data and taking plenty of beautiful photos (seen here!).  I spent ten wonderful (and action-packed) weeks at Sabaki River Mouth surveying waterbird/human use of the estuary and mapping the intertidal area.

Household surveys showed that the livelihoods of local people are heavily dependent upon natural resources from the estuary and adjacent bush & sand dunes. Natural resources constituted a mean 70% of household income in the village, of which 80 to 96% of resources were collected inside the boundaries of the IBA. Even further still, households interviewed cited that areas for livestock watering, fishing, and water collection are unavailable outside of the estuary. No households in Sabaki receive financial or social support from the Kenyan government, so the estuary’s resources provide a safety net against shocks and stresses to more than 2000 people in the Coast Province!

Conducting household surveys in Sabaki Village - photo Beccy Johnson
Conducting household surveys in Sabaki Village – photo Beccy Johnson

The intertidal areas, which are used for tourism, fishing, and livestock watering, are also important for huge populations of roosting terns and gulls and massive flocks of Palaearctic migrant waders. Protecting the area from land-grabbing and converting the area into a community-run reserve would achieve the end of securing livelihood resources and securing important habitats for migratory waterbirds. However, in order for conservation to operate successfully in a community-based manner, the community must realize benefits of conservation, lest they lose the will and trust needed to carry on community-based ventures.

A Rocha Kenya waterbird counts at Sabaki - photo Kate England

A Rocha Kenya and SREYG waterbird counts at Sabaki - photo Kate England

Our tourist interviews showed that a whopping 96.8% of tourists were willing to pay entry fees to visit the estuary. We also asked tourists how much they would be willing to pay to visit the estuary. By counting visitors every day for a month, we were able to calculate an average 5 foreign and 5 Kenyan tourists visit the estuary per day, and huge numbers of students from Voi, Nairobi, Mombasa, and other cities visit the estuary. Overall, 837 visitors came to the estuary during the month of October 2010. Based on these numbers, we calculated a rough estimate of the unrealized potential revenue from  ecotourism – which equates to $7500 USD per year. If improvements in infrastructure were made (the most preffered by visitors being implementation of a boardwalk and bird hide), aggregate willingness to pay would increase to $11 500 USD per year.

When local household heads were asked if they would like to see increased tourism and regulation of resource extraction activities, more than 90% of household responded positively on both issues. This unrealized revenue from ecotourism could substitute income which may be impacted by restricting activities (e.g. fishing) in the estuary. Further still, this unrealized revenue could contribute to the costs of provisioning piped water to the community. This venture would reduce the time and effort women in the community spend fetching water (currently they travel approx 4 km or more each day to fetch water), allowing them much more time to develop micro-enterprises, participate in education, or partake in other income-generating activities. Provision of piped water would also allow herders to water cattle outside of the intertidal area, where cattle represent a significant source of disturbance to waterbirds and churn up the intertidal substrate through trampling.

Local women carrying water from the dunes at Sabaki - photo Kate England
Local women carrying water from the dunes at Sabaki – photo Kate England

Experiments to determine the impacts of disturbance on waterbirds in the estuary highlighted the relative effects of disturbance on fourteen focal waterbird species (of the 71 waterbird species observed in surveys). Of these species, flamingos showed the highest vulnerability to disturbance. Both species which occur in the estuary, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, are subject to chasing when tourists pay local people to chase the birds into flight for photographs. Because these species are of economic value for tourism, conservation initiatives should aim at preventing flamingo-chasing and mitigating the effects of disturbance on these (and other vulnerable) species.

Greater Flamingos feeding in the Sabaki River - photo Gus Keys
Greater Flamingos feeding in the Sabaki River – photo Gus Keys

By gazetting the area as a community reserve, the community can inherit custodianship over the IBA and its precious resources. Regulating harmful activities in the IBA will help sustain biodiversity resources for local people, students, tourists, and biodiversity. Now, we’ve got the numbers to prove it…. the next step will be to attain the capacity and funding to get community-based conservation off the ground at Sabaki! Onward and upward…

Tana River Delta threats continue

The Tana River Delta is still under significant threat of major destruction by investors and individuals who seem bent on their own short-term interests and not the long-term survival of the delta and its sustainable use. The threat of the 65,000ha jatropha plantations is still very much there though thankfully NEMA have decided to look more seriously into the actual effectiveness of jatropha as an economic plantation crop. This is good because all evidence from East Africa and further afield points very strongly at it being a total disaster for a viable biofuel crop.


Fishermen on the Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

There are other threats, however to the Delta including insidious charcoal burning which is creeping into every corner of habitat that has any sort of biodiversity value and degrading sometimes entirely. There are also a number of squatters moving into the southern end of the delta coming from further south where they hear stories of land being offered for dirt cheap, will pay someone – the ‘owner’ – for the land and move on and clear the forest and bush while all the time the ‘owner’ was just someone pretending to be owner making money from people who don’t know better. Meanwhile they then go ahead and slash, burn and destroy precious habitat and kill wildlife.

Probably the largest threat now to the delta as well is that of plans by the government to build another huge dam on the Tana River upstream – the High Falls Dam – which apparently has been given the go ahead even though to my knowledge noone has seen an EIA for it, nor has there been any stakeholder involvement or consideration of its impact on the delta and its inhabitants, both human and wildlife. Dams seem to be one of the other major curses on our planet, in fact – there’s another I just heard about that the government has also given the go ahead for in prime indigenous forest in western Kenya – Nandi South – where over 1,500ha of pure forest will be flooded in the name of irrigation of land. This, in the light of grand government statements about protecting forest and making every effort to stem the destruction of forest and instead plant trees and increase forest cover!!


A homestead with cattle in the Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

NatureKenya continues to do an excellent job in the Tana River Delta and are looking to procure funding to extend further the livelihood improvement projects that they have already started and increase capacity building for communities living in the delta. The Delta Dunes Camp are also doing what they can to support the community and help them to make decisions that will protect and sustain the wilderness of the delta that will attract tourists who can bring income to the communities. One of the local community groups is in fact one of the partners in the Delta Dunes Camp and therefore benefits directly every time a guest visits.


Tourists on a boat trip through the delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

All of these initiatives are only good for the delta and it is our prayer that somehow we can stop the outright destruction of habitat, water courses and livelihoods by the projects like the sugar cane and jatropha, and instead have conservancies set up that are professionally and efficiently operated that can really bring good benefits to the people.


Riverside village, Tana River Delta – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen


Baby crocodile amongst mangrove breather roots, TRD – by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

There is a case in court that the communities have taken action on to try and stop the large destructive projects. As all of these things it is a long slow process and we’re just praying that it will succeed and the delta will be protected.

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Tana River Delta under increasing pressure from ‘green wash’ biofuel developments

It seems we’re being hammered on all sides here on the north coast of Kenya in terms of unique and precious biodiversity being threatened with destruction in the name of ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ developments. As in the Dakatcha Woodlands, the highly misleadingly named ‘green fuel of Africa’, Jatropha curcas is being proposed for vast plantations to produce biofuel in the Tana River Delta by a Canadian company, Bedford Biofuels.

This is going to be a massive ecological disaster as the Tana River Delta is an incredibly special area for wildlife as well as for local communities that have existed for generations as pastoral people herding cattle in and out of the delta.

Bedford Biofuels have produced an EIA that initially was not being made available to the public unless you went in person to read it in the office. We do however have a pdf of it now and will post it on the www.tanariverdelta.org website. I received this from NatureKenya regarding the project:

“An EIA for the Bedford Biofuels jatropha project in Tana Delta has been produced. (It weighs 2 or 3 kilos). It was sent to the East African Wild Life Society with a cover letter (attached). They kindly loaned it to Nature Kenya, and we made a copy of the relevant pages. (However, when we phoned NEMA, they said the EIA is yet to be advertised for comments….)

Maps showing the location of the project are attached. The land is leased from Group Ranches. One Group Ranch is adjacent to the Tana River Primate National Reserve, while another one is in the heart of the Delta on the coast.  However, only a part of each ranch will be used to plant Jatropha. “

The section that is the ‘heart’ of the delta is truly in the heart – right up against the sea front bang in the centre of stretch of beach and bush from Kipini down to the Tana Delta Dunes Camp. THis is something which really must be stopped. I understand from friends in Calgary that Bedford Biofuels is promoting itself over the TV and other media as being an eco-friendly company that ‘helping poor communities in Africa’ to improve. This is surely not going to be the case when we know for a fact that jatropha plantations have been failing all over Africa. Read this as a quote from someone who has been doing a lot of research into jatropha as an economically viable crop:

“The major contention that exists with the plans for planting Jatropha
curcas for biofuels is that in much of Africa it has been
categorically shown to fail as an economic crop when planted in
plantations. Jatropha or castor companies that have closed, are seeking
reinvestment or funds, or have been sold on in Africa include: Energem,
ESV Bioafrica (unpaid wages for 9 months with local councillors
arriving the appease the workers, sold in November 2009 to two Italian
companies, Api Nova Energia SrL and Seci Energia SpA), CHEMC Agri,
Bachir Jatropha (closed – Mozambique), Icecap (Namibia – closed) ;
FloraEcopower reportedly 70% bankrupt (Ethiopia, after clearing 10,000
has forest/ allocated 80% Babile elephant sanctuary), Bioshape and
Biomassive Lindi Tanzania (allocated coastal forests with large logging
components). Furthermore, in Brazil – who have vastly more experience
in biofuel production probably than anyone else, they are putting up
just one test mechanised farm of 5,000 hectares after 20 years of
research in Jatropha and intend to wait four years and see.

The sober facts are that, at the moment, based on African (and many
international) experiences so far, there is no scientific or evidential
basis for supporting large-scale jatropha plantations, especially on
uncleared, communally owned and/or environmentally more valuable land.”

This is surely something that we do not want to have in Kenya and to destroy our biodiversity for nothing more than allowing some project proponent get away with large sums of investor funding and leave a desert behind them (…or am I being too cynical??).

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