Wind energy projects in Kenya to factor in biodiversity needs

Wind power is considered to be a clean, low cost and sustainable source of energy. It is also one of the fastest growing electricity sources around the globe. Kenya’s potential for wind generation is amongst the highest in Africa, with the 310 megawatt Lake Turkana Wind Power project set to become the largest wind farm in Africa once operational.

Compared to fossil fuels, wind power is relatively more environmentally friendly. However, wind turbines and their associated infrastructure, notably power lines and towers, pose a threat to birds and bats. Spinning blades of wind turbines are potentially dangerous to migrating birds, placing them at risk of colliding with the turbines. The location of wind farms is therefore a serious consideration when it comes to wind power. Risks greatly increase when wind turbines are located in or near major migratory routes, stopover sites or key breeding or foraging areas for birds and bats.

A recent analysis placed Kenya among countries with the highest concentrations of bird species vulnerable to wind power impacts. While bird ‘sensitivity maps’ have been produced for countries along the Rift Valley flyway to the north, no comprehensive assessment has been carried out in Kenya. Basically, wind power developers in Kenya have been operating in the dark in respect to biodiversity impacts owing to the lack of reliable information. This information gap for biodiversity and wind power has presented a significant obstacle to realizing wind energy potential in Kenya.

To address this, the Ministry of Energy is carrying out a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for wind power and biodiversity in Kenya. The national SEA for wind and biodiversity is envisaged as a tool for decision making by government and private sector on placement of wind farms, with special consideration on migratory soaring birds, saving time and money. Information provided by the SEA will help to inform decisions on the safe siting of new wind power developments, ensuring that negative impacts on important migration routes, stopover sites or breeding areas are minimized.

An expert technical consortium (dubbed the Kenya Bird Conservation Consortium) comprising of Nature Kenya, The Peregrine Fund Kenya and BirdLife International, working in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy (TBC), is conducting the SEA. The process is supported by USAID through its program implemented by Tetra Tech. Tetra Tech has contracted The Biodiversity Consultancy (TBC) to lead the SEA process. The Kenya Bird Conservation Consortium, TBC, Tetra Tech and USAID/Power Africa effectively lobbied the Ministry of Energy to own the national wind power SEA process.

As part of the process, the Ministry of Energy convened a meeting in August to deliberate on the SEA. The meeting sought to create awareness on the SEA among energy and conservation stakeholders to promote understanding, consensus building and buy in. It also sought to get the sector players’ input on the proposed SEA.

Key outcomes of the meeting included:

  • The national wind power SEA should not be construed as a barrier to projects. Its primary goal is not to designate no-go areas, but to highlight critical biodiversity-related issues that wind power developers in Kenya should bear in mind to avoid adverse impacts and reduce risks to their projects and investments.
  • The SEA will follow procedures that are laid out in national legislation. To effect this, a meeting will be held among key stakeholders, including the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Ministry of Energy for further discussion.
  • The SEA process shall strive to be as inclusive as possible including the involvement of as many stakeholders as possible but with considerations of time, financial and other resources.

Site-specific actions will be addressed during environmental impact assessments for specific projects.

Participants in the meeting were drawn from the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, USAID/Power Africa, the Energy Regulatory Commission, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), NEMA, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Council of Governors, Lake Turkana Wind Power, Kenya Power Institute of Energy and Research, the World Bank, The Biodiversity Consultancy, BirdLife International and Nature Kenya, among others.

Consultations between the Kenya Bird Conservation Consortium and wind farm developers started in early 2017. Over time, wind power project proponents demonstrated to the Kenya Bird Conservation Consortium that a wind farm could achieve a net gain for populations of the critically endangered vultures. This was based on in-depth analysis and a business case.

In addition, the project proponents effectively influenced USAID, through their Power Africa Transactions and Reforms Program (PATRP), to support a national strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for wind power in Kenya.


Nature Champions: Mt. Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group (Mt. Kebio)

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are now part of a new, broader definition of sites critically important for the conservation of biodiversity: Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). All 67 IBAs in Kenya qualify as KBAs. Local environmental groups play a key role in protecting Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) when they become a site support group (SSG).

Mt. Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group (Mt. Kebio) is the Mt. Kenya forest KBA site support group. Formed in 1999, Mt. Kebio was registered by the Department of Social Services as a community based organization (CBO) in 2004. The need to conserve the environment from which group members earned a living from was the main force behind its registration, with deforestation, solid waste pollution, poaching and charcoal burning as some of the group’s immediate concerns. Most Mt. Kebio members are registered mountain guides, porters and cooks operating within Mt. Kenya. These members earn a living from the mountain, by providing their services to visitors and mountaineers.

The group has been engaged in a number of activities geared towards fulfilling its conservation agenda, including tree planting, environmental awareness, ecotourism and garbage collection. Mt. Kebio organizes bird watching trips every last Saturday of the month, drawing local and international bird enthusiasts. The group holds annual clean ups exercises in towns in the Mt. Kenya area, and distributes environmental reading material provided by Nature Kenya to the local people.

Mt. Kebio manages the Mt. Kenya eco-resource centre located at Naro Moru. The centre has a library, a mini museum, conference facilities, binoculars and guidebooks, and camping ground for ecotourism.

Visting Mt. Kenya? Contact Mt. Kebio at

or Martin Njogu

Mobile: 0724 690121

Quick response averts poisoning deaths

Poisoning still remains a major threat to wildlife conservation. Efforts undertaken by conservation stakeholders have ensured that communities are more vigilant and quicker in reporting wildlife poisoning cases. A recent occurrence in Maasai Mara is a testimony of how community rapid response to poisoning incidents can prevent secondary wildlife deaths.

In August, a local community member came across a dead hyena at the border of Olare Motorogi Conservancy in the Maasai Mara area. Suspecting the hyena had died of poisoning, he instantly reported the incident. A rapid response team was immediately dispatched to the scene to inspect the carcass. Upon examination, it was confirmed the hyena had indeed died of poisoning. The carcass was then safely disposed of and the scene decontaminated.  Timely reporting of the incident meant there were no resultant vulture deaths.

Poisoning is the biggest threat to Africa’s vultures, accounting for 60% of their deaths. Seven of Africa’s 11 vulture species now face imminent extinction, with their decline being alarmingly rapid: a plummet of 80-97% over just three generations. Four out of the seven species are now listed as Critically Endangered.

 Preventing Poisoning to Save Africa’s Vultures’ is financed by BAND Foundation and jointly implemented by Nature Kenya, The Peregrine Fund and BirdLife International. This work in Kenya is also supported as part of a programme to tackle vulture poisoning running jointly across Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe, funded by Fondation Segré.

Working to safeguard Nature

At the AGM in May, a member asked the question: What do Nature Kenya’s projects do? A summary of major project activities is given below:

Nature Kenya’s work to conserve biodiversity focuses on Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). Key Biodiversity Areas in Kenya were first identified as IBAs (Important Bird Areas). Nature Kenya takes practical action by working with and for people – to improve their quality of life as they conserve nature. Nature Kenya collaborates with others wherever possible, at local, national, regional or global levels, linking with community groups, governments, businesses, universities and civil society groups to maximize conservation impacts.

Habitat Conservation

In Tana River Delta and Yala Swamp, two of Kenya’s most important wetlands at opposite ends of the country, Nature Kenya has been championing for better planning of developments in the wetlands to minimize biodiversity loss.

The Tana River Delta KBA is designated as a wetland of international importance (Ramsar site) and is one of the most important wetlands in Africa. In 2011, Nature Kenya led a collaborative effort of various stakeholders in the development of a Tana River Delta Land Use Plan (LUP) that was guided by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The process was concluded in 2015. The land use plan has since been approved and adopted as a policy by the Lamu County government. The land use plan is now in its implementation phase. Nature Kenya has also been promoting the community conservation areas (CCAs) approach. Community Conservation Areas are biodiversity-rich areas partially or largely managed by local communities.

Nature Kenya, in collaboration with partners including the national government, County Governments of Siaya and Busia, non-government organizations and local communities, has been working to put Yala Swamp KBA, Kenya’s largest papyrus wetland, on a sustainable footing.  The Siaya and Busia County governments, through Nature Kenya facilitation, have formulated a land use plan for the Yala Swamp informed by a Strategic Environmental Assessment. The Yala Swamp land use plan is a negotiated document which provides a framework on how land within the swamp and the surrounding areas will be used – for small-scale and large-scale agriculture, livestock rearing, nature-based industries and protected conservation areas.

In Mt. Kenya, Nature Kenya has partnered with the private sector and community forest associations (CFAs) to plant 100,000 indigenous trees to restore degraded sections of Mt. Kenya Forest KBA. This initiative seeks strategic commitment and support from the business sector to enhance the quantity and quality of water flowing from Mt. Kenya. The concept is that water consumers should help pay for protecting the sources of water. Other forest conservation initiatives have been undertaken by Nature Kenya in South Nandi and North Nandi, Kakamega and Cherengany Hills forests KBAs. These projects have enhanced community participation in conservation of forests through the CFAs.

Saving Species

In Taita Hills forests KBA, Nature Kenya has leased a 6-hectare piece of land at Msidunyi for the conservation and protection of the Critically Endangered Taita Apalis. This small forest fragment is expected to provide habitat for six per cent of the world’s Taita Apalis population. The Taita Apalis is on the verge of extinction with only an estimated 150 individuals remaining in the wild, in the Taita Hills.  In 2010, Nature Kenya also secured the purchase of 20 hectares of land at the Kinangop grasslands KBA to protect the Endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw’s habitat.

In Maasai Mara KBA, Nature Kenya together with partner organizations in collaboration with Narok County Government and Kenya Wildlife Service, have been actively involved in vulture conservation activities. Currently the main effort is to reduce poisoning of wildlife through awareness creation, identification of poisoning hotspots and engagement of local communities to appreciate the key role that vultures play in the ecosystem.

Empowering Local Communities

Nature Kenya has been empowering local people to promote conservation with development at key priority sites. There are now 25 local conservation groups that serve as Site Support Groups (SSGs) for KBAs, especially those that are without official protection. Site Support Groups are community-based organisations of local people working for conservation and sustainable development in and around a KBA. Site support groups help Nature Kenya to engage with communities living adjacent to KBAs.

Resource centres in Mt. Kenya, Dakatcha Woodland, the Kinangop grasslands, Kakamega Forest, South Nandi Forest, the Kikuyu Escarpment and the Taita Hills KBAs serve to educate and inform children and the public, with awareness events reaching 10,000 children annually. The public have been made aware of unsustainable development options.

Nature Kenya has been linking livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. Communities living adjacent to the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest KBA in Kilifi now engage in butterfly farming as a source of livelihood. The communities are getting paid for raising butterflies on forest plants. The butterflies are sold (as pupae) to butterfly exhibits at home and abroad. Bee-keeping, handicrafts from local plants, fish farming, tree nurseries and on-farm forestry also raise incomes while reducing pressure on the forests.

Eco-tourism and bird-watching tourism in high potential sites that are not well known, such as Kakamega Forest, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kinangop grasslands and Dakatcha Woodland KBAs is another source of income. Nature Kenya has also been championing the use of energy efficient stoves to further reduce dependency on forests for fuel wood.

Advocacy for Ecological Sustainability

Advocacy is key to keeping conservation issues on the national priority agenda. Nature Kenya has been enhancing public knowledge of nature’s values, contributing to national environmental policy and legislation processes and collaborating at national and international levels to advocate for conservation of important sites like the Tana River Delta and Dakatcha Woodland KBAs. Nature Kenya’s projects also support building the capacity of local communities to actively participate and positively influence decisions on biodiversity conservation. Nature Kenya has had significant input into national policy and legislation, including the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, the Forest Act and Forest Policy and the draft Wetland Policy.


Singing and dancing to stop wildlife poisoning

Nature Kenya’s Simon Shati speaks about the dangers of wildlife
poisoning during a community outreach at the Naikarra market, Narok
Nature Kenya’s Simon Shati speaks about the dangers of wildlife poisoning during a community outreach at the Naikarra market, Narok County. PHOTO: REBECCA IKACHOI

Songs and dances are effective awareness tools. These two mediums, often used to entertain, communicate and transmit culture, have a strong appeal to the public, particularly at the community level. Through such performances people are not only entertained but also get to learn a thing or two.

An awareness campaign aimed at sensitizing communities on the dangers of wildlife poisoning through song and dance took place in Maasai Mara in June. The outreach, involving shows by a troupe of traditional Maasai artists named the Buffalo Dancers, staged a series of public performances at seven markets in seven days. Using songs, choral chants and drama the performers visited Ngosuani, Naikarra, Ewaso Ng’iro, Olpusimoru, Nkeneji, Oloolaimutia and Aitong markets, delivering powerful anti-poisoning messages aimed at discouraging the public from engaging in retaliatory wildlife poisoning.

The markets were targeted as key venues for the performances since they serve as meeting points for people from various areas seeking to exchange livestock and purchase food. Unlike holding public meetings in villages and manyattas, the performances attracted huge crowds, leading to a higher rate of message transmission. Members of public thronged venues where the performances were held, some of them even recording the proceedings on mobile phones to share on social media platforms.

Gauging by its popularity, it appears that the outreach is having a positive impact as an awareness tool. Over 6,000 people were reached through the awareness campaign that was undertaken jointly by Nature Kenya and the Mara Predator Conservation Programme.

Nature Kenya is implementing the “Saving the African Vulture” Project in the greater Mara Ecosystem. The project seeks to reduce poison related vulture deaths as a contribution towards the halting and long-term reversal of vulture declines in Africa.