Tana Delta



River Tana, Kenya’s longest river, flows south from Garissa in the dry northeast, then turns to the east to reach the sea. A vast triangle of land, from Garsen in the north, Kipini in the east, to the Malindi road in the south and west, forms the delta of the Tana River. The Tana River Delta is a vast patchwork of palm savanna, seasonally flooded grassland, forest fragments, lakes, mangroves, sand dunes, beaches and the river itself. This ecosystem supports several communities and enormous numbers of livestock, wildlife and water birds. The people have adapted their lifestyle to seasonal extremes. Farmers cultivate on receding lake edges, seasonally fertile floodplains, and where the river spills fresh water into their fields with the tidal flow. Other people raise livestock or engage in fishing.

riverWhen this vast wetland is left undisturbed, it acts like a sponge, absorbing floods, storing water and remaining green during the dry season. The thick vegetation also absorbs carbon dioxide gas from the air. In times of drought, pastoralists bring livestock from as far as the Somali and Ethiopian borders to graze on the grasslands. In times of flood, the Delta fills with water, and water birdsbee-eater from all over Kenya nest and raise young, replenishing bird populations throughout the country. The Tana River Delta has been designated an Important Bird Area, a site critical for the conservation of birds.


Today, a number of large-scale projects threaten the people and wildlife that live in the Delta, and the ecosystem services that the Delta provides. Agricultural schemes, whether irrigated rice or sugar or biofuel crops, risk changing the water balance of the Delta, leaving the land and its people prone to the ravages of flood and drought and salt water intrusion. In fact, none of the major irrigation schemes or projects set up in the Lower Tana in the past half-century has been successful.


hippoNature Kenya welcomes the Government’s efforts to bring development in Kenya. However, the Tana River Delta has special attributes, ecological functions, resources and needs. It is imperative that planning for the Delta’s resources precedes any large-scale development proposals. A conservation and development master plan for Tana Delta’s resources would help safeguard local livelihoods and wildlife while permitting sustainable development projects in designated areas. This plan should be developed by the government in consultation with local people and all interested parties. This would be a win-win situation for conservation and development.

fishermenNatureKenya is thus working with local communities – pastoralists, farmers, fishermen and conservation groups who are very concerned – to take action against the proposed developments and to take forward positive proposals to enhance livelihoods. The aim is a long-term plan for the area which builds on the rich biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Delta to provide sustainable livelihoods for the local people and is produced with strong input from the local communities.


Nature Kenya’s activities in defense of the Delta so far include submitting statements and comments to various Environmental Impact Assessment reports and surveys, commissioning a cost benefit study, the production of an advocacy film, Is Tana Sugar Really Sweet?, and mobilizing funding for advocacy towards the conservation of the Tana Delta. 


Read more about the Tana River Delta campaign in this article and Nature Kenya's brief that appeared in the Star newspaper.



Tana Delta

icon  Latest Updates


24 June 2013: Tana River Delta Strategic Environmental Assessment Scoping Report, 2012 3 More>>

24 June  2013: Tana River Delta Land Use Plan Framework, 2012 More>>

06 September 2011: Sh 225m jatropha project hits snag (Daily Nation) More>>

22 August 2011: Once forgotten, Tana is now being targeted by investors (in2eastafrica.net). More>>

19 July 2011: British farming industry G4 industries pulls out of the Tana Delta (arochakenya.wildlifedirect.org). More>>

05 July 2011: Secret land deals fleece Africa (The Star). More>>

02 July 2011: Biofuels land grab in Kenya's Tana Delta fuels talks of war (guardian.co.uk) More>>

01 July 2011: Bedford Biofuels to plant jatropha in the Tana Delta (thepetitionsitee.com). More>>

19 June 2011: Tana River Delta - a future in the balance (RSPB). More>>

19 June 2011: RSPB's Helen Byron on the Tana River Delta (talkingnaturally,co,uk). More>>

09 May 2011: One woman's fight to save the Tana Delta from 'development' (The East African).

22 February 2011: Save wetlands, pastrolists urged (The Standard). More>>

08 February 2011: Tana villagers oppose sugar project over bird concerns (The Star) More>>

29 January 2011: Tana River advocacy campaign on KTN (t.v). Part 1>> Part 2>>