Tag Archives: NEMA

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.

National Env Management Authority director suspended over Dakatcha biofuel issue

I have been sent this link to a newspaper report on the suspension of a NEMA Director for having given clearance for the Dakatcha jatropha biofuel project when the NEMA Board had not cleared it. There was clearly some dodgy stuff going on (exchange of $$??) that led to this.

This really is an answer to prayer – that the jatropha project in Dakatcha is becoming less and less likely to happen. Katana, our A Rocha Kenya staff member who is from and lives in Dakatcha where he is working on our Farming God’s Way programme and doing bird surveys and helping NatureKenya in their conservation work there, came last week and reported that the vibe on the ground is that the project won’t go ahead. If you pray… please keep praying for a complete stop to this madness and instead for opening doors for us and NatureKenya to implement some really sustainable and good programmes to help the community raise their standard of living whilst reducing their impact on the forest and habitat.

More from Katana later… he’s got some awesome stories.


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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This is the corrupt system we are fighting against to protect something of the world around us

I received this in an email just recently that was sent out to the AfricanRaptors mailing list in response to a discussion about whether conservation can alleviate poverty. It kind of sums up what we are up against in Kenya when we are seeking to protect a fragile and precious environment that a greed developer has got his eyes on. This is what I fear the case will be for Dakatacha and for Tana River Delta – and for Sabaki River Mouth…

Our hope is to pray and to pray again that somehow we can stop these things which are entirely in the interests of a rich few and not for the poor majority nor the silent creation.

“Dear Rob et al,

It is not necessarily the poor and disadvantaged that have no concern for nature. Here in Kenya, some of the most wealthy are destroying essential environmental resources to enrich themselves further through corruption of Government officials charged with environmental protection. For six years, at great personal financial and emotional cost, in the face of death threats and attacks by gun-toting thugs hired from their day-job as policemen, more than fifty court appearances to defend myself against bogus criminal charges in front of a corrupt judge (I still won!) I have fought to maintain a wetland against greedy property developers. I managed to get the land designated as an ecologically fragile  riparian reserve, a flood plain, a water resource  and a tributary of the Nairobi River. As I write, bulldozers are ripping up the wetland and canalizing the river. The status was secretly changed by the water resource management authority without any subsequent survey and after a visit to the Government body by the developer’s agent. The developer is also cutting a road through public land upstream of the plot he claims in order to dump waste. Such is the weakness and greed of the Kenya authorities the developer acts with impunity. This is only one of many examples of illegal and inappropriate development that is ruining Kenya.

I, on the other hand, have been summoned to the High Court to respond to the same charges successfully defended and dismissed in the criminal courts. It is said of the Kenya judiciary “Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge”!

I shall fight on with hope if not expectation of success.

I write only to suggest that theoretical conclusions crafted in institutions of higher learning and published in scientific journals, are not always consistent with reality.

If any of you feel concern, then the Natioal Environment Management Authority has the power to overturn this situation. NEMA has a new Director-General, Ayub Macharia (his two predecessors were dismissed but not prosecuted for corruption). Dr Macharia is considered to be honest and is looking into the matter but has stated that he believes nothing can be done. His email is  [email protected]


Peter Usher”

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Conservation staff threatened and attacked by Jatropha project mob

I have been away for almost a month since the public hearing on the jatropha project proposed for the globally important site for biodiversity conservation, the Dakatcha Woodlands. During that time, things have not cooled down or been sorted out at all. NEMA were meant to have produced a report and the proceedings from the meeting but we are still waiting for it. In the meantime last week, the NatureKenya manager for coast, Francis Kagema, together with two reporters and two Kenya Wildlife Service rangers went to the Jatropha plantation site to interview the man in charge. They were met by a mob of 30+ people armed with clubs, pangas (machetes) and stones who attacked them and damaged the car and injured two people. This attack was apparently provoked by the Provincial Administration, which if true is particularly alarming that the government is taking this approach to support a project which has been clearly shown to have little hope of success, but rather will have a very significant negative impact on the area and human population.

Paul Matiku, Director of NatureKenya wrote this brief update on the event last week:

“I write to inform you that following our aggressive campaigns against the setting a side of 50,000 ha for Kenya Jatropha Energy LTD to plant Jatropha in Dakatcha Woodland IBA, there are unpleasant developments.
Nature Kenya staff, KTN reporter and KWS rangers in a Nature Kenya car were attacked on Thurs 1st July by armed people from the community supporting the jatropha project mobilized by the area provincial administration. The bad news is as follows:

   1. A KTN reporter wanted to cover the issue in Dakatcha so Mr Francis Kagema, Nature Kenya Conservation Programme Officer, requested security from KWS and in a Nature Kenya car they left Malindi to go to Dakatcha Woodland. Their going was not a secret, so people in Dakatcha knew they were going.
   2. On the way within Marafa Division where Dakatcha woodland is found, they met a group of local people armed with pangas, clubs and stones. They charged to attack them but the KWS rangers cocked their guns and the crowd receded. They stoned the car and also injured two local people who were passing by the scene and who are known to oppose the project. They escaped unharmed except the damage to the car that could still be driven.
   3. The Margarini District District Commissioner (DC) called OCPD (Officer in Charge of Police Division) Malindi and ordered the arrest of Mr Kagema and the Nature Kenya car. On their way they met the OCPD security team who stopped them – all they wanted was Mr Kagema who they said was wanted by the OCPD. Kagema said he also wanted the OCPD. They both drove to the OCPD in Malindi.
   4. At the OCPDs office in Malindi, Mr Kagema was joined by Kenya Wildlife Service and other staff who together with the rangers totalled five and who then explained to the OCPD the background behind the attack. The two injured community members and the KTN reporter were also there. They recorded their statements with the OCPD and the OCPD did not see any reason to arrest Nature Kenya staff nor the car.
   5. Later the scared DC, who did not know that there was a KTN reporter in the car, called repeatedly pleading with the reporter not to cover the incidence.
   6. No arrests have been made.

Background to the attack:

   1. During the public hearing of the EIA, Area Councilors were heard talking publicly in the meeting chaired by the DC saying that Nature Kenya and any people opposed to the project should be killed.
   2. The councilors have also been heard saying that if Nature Kenya continues to oppose the project, they will evict Nature Kenya from the division.
   3. The County Council of Malindi has tried to stop Nature Kenya conservation activities in the area but a meeting before the conference we held last week on Monday had allowed some activities to take place especially if Nature Kenya agreed to setting a side of 32,000 ha to be allocated to the county council for jatropha growing.
   4. The press conference and the wide media coverage was badly received by the County Council, the Councelors and the Provincial Administration who have allowed illegal destruction of the Dakatcha Woodland to start ahead of the EIA approval process. Nature Kenya strongly objects to the EIA and the project and that stand remains.”

So this is a major increase in the heat of the event. Matiku has spoken to Dr Mwinzi, Director General for NEMA who promised that the EIA will not be approved. He also said he will talk to his staff on the ground and that he is aware that the developer has gone ahead and planted jatropha on the illegally cleared land ahead of the EIA approval process. Let’s hope that NEMA for once will have the teeth to really do something about this. My name was brought up in the whole affair, apparently, with me being accused to have gone to the jatropha site on the 2nd to take photographs together with Kagema – and apparently a police car was sent to arrest us there! As it was, I was in Nairobi that day…

We have been praying very much for this whole issue and it is amazing that Kagema and the reporters were not hurt as it could have been a lot nastier. We continue to pray for God to really intervene in this and are looking to take what action we can at international levels as well as locally. Please join us in this and in raising what storm you can to have a stop put to this project which really will not bring anything to the anyone in the area except increased poverty and habitat degradation.

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Urgent appeal to save a highly threatened and critically important wetland

In the last blog I outlined the situation with the Tana River Delta – that of an incredibly rich and diverse wetland for both wetland and its value for the local human communities living there (with c. 30,000 head of cattle dependent on it) that is imminently threatened with destruction through conversion to sugarcane.

The following shots are some images of cattle in the delta – fat and healthy enjoying the lush vegetation and abundant water. You’ll also notice a lot of birds associated with them – egrets (white herons), swallows, Sacred Ibises (the black & white birds with long decurved bills) etc.

Cattle in Tana River Delta with swallows - by Jill Retief

The image above is taken exactly where sugarcane is planned to be put…

Cow with egrets and ibises, Tana River Delta by Jill Retief

These Orma men are spraying their cattle with insecticide against ticks etc. This is potentially damaging for the ecosystem but with proper awareness on good and bad pesticides, this could be significantly reduced

Spraying cattle for ticks - Tana River Delta by Jill Retief

The extremely worrying thing about this is that the government organisation, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) who’s job it is to refuse or grant licences for this sort of project has apparently just this week accepted the EIA for the sugar project and is giving a licence for it to go ahead. This, after all the very clear inadequacies of the EIA being pointed out by many people and the outcry against the project in the delta (again c.f. The Water Hole). The EIA and comments on it are being posted on the website www.tanariverdelta.net along with a lot more info (tho’ the website is still being put together).

Our only option now is to fight it with a major campaign in a bid to put a stop to it – and for this, we need your help…

George Wamukoya, who is playing a significant role in taking a lead in this fight, wrote in an email this week:

“This message may disappoint you or give you the impetus to fight on. This is to inform you that the Director General (of NEMA) has issued the EIA Licence to Mumias/TARDA to proceed and undertake the sugar project. Am further informed that the DG has done so against the advise of the technical staff who were dissatisfied with the response provided by Mumias on the issues raised by TAC and during the public hearing. As a result, he has hidden the file in his office!

Given this new development, it is imperative that we soldier on by proceeding a major campaign to halt the decision. We are proceeding to prepare pleadings but we will definitely require money to cover costs. We are convinced that this is a clear case where we will be granted the orders.

Generally, campaign costs are high, but we have no option if we have to seek justice. I estimate the conservative figure of Kshs. 500,000. We must mobilise these reasources to enable us proceed with the application.”

We are therefore appealing to all readers of this blog who care for special places on our planet – we have only this chance to save the Tana River Delta. Please help us by donating through this blog site towards the costs of the campaign. Ksh 500,000 is approx US$8,100. We are doing all that is possible to raise these funds, but your contribution however large or small will be hugely valued. Please reference any donation through this blog as being for the “Tana River Delta Campaign”. THANK YOU in advance and we’ll update you with progress as things unfold – and for those who pray, I believe it is hugely powerful to ask God to take action here too as he cares for his world more than we can imagine, so do join us in this too.

Just on a general note and to put things in perspective, A Rocha Kenya also has strong links with two other WildlifeDirect blogs – ASSETS which is our main community conservation initiative and a project in its own right, and David Ngala (Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest) who assists with a lot of our research and monitoring work alongside his specific FoASF work. David is also someone I have supported and helped in his work for over 10 years.

This A Rocha Kenya blog will focus on the research & monitoring and environmental education aspect of our work together with life and activities at our field study centre, Mwamba, in Watamu – about which more will be written. It will also deal with the various projects we’re involved with such as the fight to save the Tana River Delta. It’ll be good to share with you what’s going on in our part of the conservation world.

…to finish todays blog I thought I’d show you what sunset at the mouth of the delta can look like. Awesome.
Sunset at the Delta mouth