Conservation and development in the Tana River Delta, Kenya

Over 90,000 people depend on the Delta for their livelihoods © Nature Kenya

Kenya’s Tana River Delta, a vast patchwork of lakes, streams, savanna, wetlands, forests and dunes, is home to a rich array of birds, mammals and plants, including many threatened and restricted-range species. The delevopment of a land use map is enabling better planning in the region and the associated data gatherinh contributed to the site being listing as a Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance) in 2012.

The Tana Delta has a history of poor environmental management and disastrous agricultural development schemes. It faces an array of large scale threats, including biofuels plantations, intensive rice and maize production and mining proposals. Along with the potential loss of the rich biodiversity, the 90,000 people who live in the Delta could face impoverishment, conflict and displacement.

Over the last decade, BirdLife Partner Nature Kenya has advocated for the development of a strategic land use plan, in consultation with local people, government and prospective investors, as a mechanism to reconcile competing interests. Their efforts were hampered by the lack of a map showing the natural vegetation cover and existing land use on the Delta.

With funding from the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, an expert in Geographical Information Systems produced a map drawing on all relevant sources, which provides a reliable basis for land use planning in the Delta. Information gathered while the map was being prepared also contributed to the Ramsar listing.

The grant also enabled community representatives to attend meetings to formulate the Tana Delta Conservation and Development Master Plans. With legal support arranged through Nature Kenya, the communities filed a petition in Kenya’s constitutional court, challenging the Kenyan government for giving away their land to corporations without their consent.

Nature Kenya established a Site Support Group in the Delta, and gave them the training they needed to engage in local and national forums, including National Liaison Committee meetings. The group has identified a community conservation area, and developed guidelines and bylaws for its management, access and resource use.

In 2011, the Kenyan Government published a draft communiqué announcing the launch of the Tana Delta Planning and Strategic Environmental Assessment Initiative, and early in 2013, the High Court ruled that development plans for the Delta require the full participation of the communities. The AVJCF project has helped the Tana Delta communities make use of existing legislation requiring them to be consulted in decisions which affect their future.

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Related Sites




Pridham, C. and Langley N. (2013) Living landscapes for nature and people. Celebrating the conservation work of the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation and the BirdLife Partnership. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International Pg. 18-19.

Compiled: 2015    Copyright: 2015   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2015) Conservation and development in the Tana River Delta, Kenya. Downloaded from on 23/03/2018

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