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Empowering people through nature in Kenya’s Tana Delta

The Tana River Delta in Kenya is one of the largest and most significant coastal delta ecosystems in Eastern Africa. In order to protect the outstanding diversity of nature here in the face of a changing climate and economy, we work towards the sustainable management of wetlands and water resources while promoting more sustainable livelihoods for the local pastoral, agricultural and fisherfolk communities.

Action Description:

The Problem

The Tana Delta has been the focus of a number of agricultural development projects over the last three decades which have been controversial and largely disliked by local communities. These include sugarcane farming, irrigation, and aquaculture projects such as prawn and biofuel farming. A range of other threats are also occurring in the Tana Delta and the upstream part of the basin, including:

  • Deforestation
  • Immigration and squatters utilising slash and burn farming practices
  • Wildlife poaching
  • Illegal commercial prawn trawling causing by-catch problems and impacts on local fisheries
  • Unsustainable and illegal fishing, particularly the use of beach seines
  • Upstream hydrological changes such as damming and water diversions for irrigation and urban domestic water used
  • Oil and gas exploration

Local communities are also hampered by unclear land ownership and security. Overall, environmental threats are caused by poor environmental governance and compartmentalised decision-making with little regard for the health of the environment.

Where we work

The Tana Delta consists of an impressive variety of freshwater, floodplain, estuarine and coastal areas with extensive mangroves, intertidal areas and pristine beaches, forming a large and very productive coastal ecosystem. As a result, it was recently designated as a Ramsar wetland of international importance.

The Tana Delta is rich in nature, supporting several highly threatened species of animals and plants, including five species of threatened marine turtles, the IUCN red-listed African elephant, and three species of monkey. The delta supports tens of thousands of wetland birds, making it one of the key sites in the country for waterbird conservation.

The delta supports over 100,000 people who practice pastoralism, agriculture and fishing, and depend on the delta’s ecosystem services to support their livelihoods.

Aim of our work

Our work is targeted towards the sustainable management of wetlands and water resources in a changing climate and economy in the Tana Delta. The main aims are:

  • To promote ecologically more sustainable land and resource use practices among the local civil society organisations and communities through increased participation in government decisions that impact them
  • To influence the development of local and national policies, while improving the capacity of local communities and civil society organisations in sustainable development, land use, international trade chains, natural resource management and ecosystem and biodiversity conservation
  • To improve local community livelihoods through nature-based enterprises that add value to products provided by healthy ecosystems
  • To strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations and communities to participate in and benefit from innovative financial mechanisms
  • To build capacity and increase the resilience of local civil society groups and communities to climate change

Our approach

Our activities focus mainly on:

  • Training communities in water resource management, climate change adaptation and supply chain development
  • Carrying out an mapping and economic valuation of the Tana Basin’s ecosystem services
  • Producing and disseminating policy briefs and supporting Kenya’s National Wetlands Policy which will promote the wise use and conservation of wetlands
  • Improving vegetation cover such as mangrove restoration and tree planting

Our activities empower local communities on wetlands management and environmental stewardship. In the process, we gather information on the functions and values of the ecosystem to form a strong knowledge base for the region. This is then used to inform local communities on sustainable land use practices and shape regional and national policy.


  • Near endorsement of the National Wetlands Policy
  • Designation of Tana Delta as a Ramsar site
  • Community-based organisations trained on natural resource management, advocacy, entrepreneurship, business planning and value chain analysis
  • Fishery enterprise established, equipped with climate friendly technology such as solar driers. This reduces the perishability of the fish and provides more opportunities for far away markets
  • Local natural products such as baobab and eco-charcoal are audited for Forest Stewardship Council
  • Developed and disseminated resource use plans and community policy guides to assist the sustainable utilisation of the natural resources


New Plan May Finally Save Tana Delta
Development projects threatening Tana Delta ecosystem 
Human encroachment puts ecosystem under threat
Discusion On Protecting Wetlands

Action Partners: