The people of Yala Swamp need your help to defend their precious wetland

Nature Kenya has learned that the National Land Commission (NLC) plans to push ahead with the controversial allocation of 6,763.74 ha of Yala Swamp to Lake Agro Ltd despite sustained objections from communities and other stakeholders.

The intended move by NLC grossly violates the rights and betrays the trust of indigenous Yala communities - the rightful custodians of the communal land, compromises the communities' livelihoods and threatens the wetland's unique biodiversity.

In their Yala Swamp Determination paper 74, NLC says that the Siaya County Government applied to allocate the parcels of land to Lake Agro Ltd with a contested Part Development Plan and Survey Plans. The commission acknowledges that public participation concerns were raised during the planning process.

As part of its determination on the matter, NLC instructs the Siaya County Government to submit to it, within two weeks, detailed evidence of multi-stakeholder, inclusive and meaningful public participation in the planning process. It is well known to NLC that the surveys done by the Siaya County Government on the parcels allocated to Lake Agro Ltd were dubiously conducted, with little input from the communities. As such, any request for evidence of the same by NLC equates to insincerity, trivialisation of the issue, and betrayal of trust bestowed on them by the communities.

A land-use plan for Yala Swamp is in place. The Yala Delta Land Use Plan (LUP) was developed collaboratively by Yala Swamp stakeholders and the Siaya and Busia counties governments. Both governors from the two counties endorsed the plan. The Busia County Assembly went further and adopted the LUP as a policy. Yala communities recognize the LUP as a negotiated framework that guides the sustainable use of resources within the wetland and surrounding areas. Yala communities wonder why the allocation in the PDP varies significantly with the LUP recommendations.

During the public hearings conducted by NLC, 21 entities, including community, civic and governmental organizations, presented strong objections to the proposed allocation. Their grounds for objections were rooted in human rights violations, threats to community livelihoods, habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity, as captured in NLC's paper. But, the NLC, has ignored all the objections. Who is NLC representing? The people or the developer?

Kenyans expect NLC to make a decision that respects the constitutional ownership rights of the communities in Yala, recognizes the ecological value of Yala Swamp, and promotes the preservation of the wetland for prosperity. Anything short of these minimal expectations is unacceptable and must be rejected.

What you can do to support the people of Yala Swamp

We urge you all to stand with the Yala Swamp communities in objecting the planned allocation of the wetland to a private developer. You can support by:

  1. Signing our petition here: or;
  2. Submitting objection letters to the Chairman of the National Land Commission (, Cabinet Secretary Lands (P.O. Box 30450 – 00100 Nairobi or, Cabinet Secretary Environment (P.O. Box 30126 – 00100 Nairobi or and copy to the Siaya County Government (P.O. Box 803 – 40600 Siaya or or

Land purchase in Dakatcha Woodland

Some years back, you had to plan adequately before visiting Dakatcha Woodland. Marafa was the main local town for people planning to visit the woodland. A few scheduled buses and matatus ferried passengers to Malindi early in the mornings and returned in the afternoon. One was required to seek banking and other services in Malindi.

Since then, things have changed. Some areas in the woodland have piped water and electricity. Travel to Malindi is no longer an issue, thanks to a tarmacked road that leads up to Wakala. The road has attracted many small vehicles ferrying passengers to and from Malindi anytime.

Development, in the form of piped water, electricity and extended road networks, has opened up the woodland to the outside world, attracting people eager to acquire large tracts of land. Money is quickly changing hands. The former community-owned forests are fast disappearing due to the aggressive land sales and unplanned land use changes.

The serene and biodiversity-rich Dakatcha Woodland Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) now faces life-changing threats. Access roads, farms and settlements have made inroads deep into the woodland. Illegal activities like charcoal burning and poaching have also intensified due to this exposure.

Escalating uncontrolled land use changes and the transition of land tenure from communal to private ownership has promted conservationists to take action to save the woodland’s unique species. Nature Kenya has closely monitored the trends of the Kilifi (Clarke’s) Weaver in Dakatcha. The threatened Kilifi (Clarke’s) Weaver only lives in Kilifi County and nests in seasonal wetlands found in Dakatcha.

To secure a home for the Kilifi (Clarke’s) Weaver, Nature Kenya has acquired 2,573 acres of the woodland through a land purchase program with financial support from the World Land Trust, African Bird Club, RESOLVE and TiME. Areas identified for purchase have been mapped out and deemed suitable for conservation of the Kilifi (Clarke’s) Weaver.

The Kamale Nature Reserve is one such area. The forest block, measuring 1,800 acres, has four seasonal wetlands. Kilifi (Clarke’s) weavers have been recorded breeding in one of the wetlands within the reserve. Apart from bird life, the Kamale also hosts mammals such as Golden-rumped Sengis, duikers and buffaloes. Lions and elephants occasionally visit the Kamale Nature Reserve at different times.

With shrinking forest cover, Kamale Nature Reserve is expected to offer shelter to many wildlife. Local communities manage the reserve through the Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group and the Kamale Mazingira Community-based Organization (CBO).

A community warden has been engaged through the SSG who plans and executes forest patrols and biodiversity monitoring visits.

Nature Kenya, working collaboratively with the local conservation groups, plans to conduct monitoring activities periodically to ascertain the biodiversity status of the reserve.

This year Nature Kenya finalized purchase of another 773 acres of forest at Kibaoni – Marafa. In the longrun this forest block can form part of a rich birding ecosystem in an urban set up. The forest is rich in birds and periodically hosts the Kilifi (Clarke’s) weavers after breeding in the nearby Bore – Mnyenzeni wetland.

Through the land purchase approach, Nature Kenya seeks to secure core conservation zones in Dakatcha Woodland to protect and conserve endemic and threatened bird and mammal species. Land purchase for conservation is a strategy worth exploring in high priority conservation areas with no formal protection status.

Honey from Stingless Bees: Medicinal Gold

Stingless bees are social; they form a colony that persists for several years. In good and bad times, bees work together for the sake of their colony. To prepare for bad times, like when floral resources are limited, they store food in pots small as a peanut or big as a macadamia nut, depending on the species. Honey is stored inside these well-sealed pots. And this is where the magic happens: fermentation. Stingless bee honey has a relatively high-water content of around 25%. This leads to natural fermentation and adds some acidity to the sweetness.

Thanks to the sustainable management of stingless bees, we can benefit from the bees’ liquid gold. In East Africa, stingless beekeeping, the so-called meliponiculture, is performed predominantly in Western Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Local communities appreciate stingless bee honey and keep colonies as first aid boxes next to their houses.

Compared to honeybees, stingless bees produce way less honey. Only about one litre can be harvested per colony in a year. And yet, stingless beekeeping is becoming popular as more people appreciate the medicinal properties of the honey. It has a low glycaemic index with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibiotic properties. Therefore, stingless bee honey is an immune booster rather than a simple sweetener. One may say: a teaspoon a day keeps the doctor away.

The Herpetofauna of Ondiri Swamp: Filling the Gap…

Ondiri Swamp is an important wetland found close to Kikuyu town in Kiambu County. The swamp is bordered in all sides by extensive cultivation of a variety of crops.  Such activities if not kept in control may threaten the lives of the swamps inhabitants. Many amphibians and some reptiles use wetlands like Ondiri swamp for their survival. Unfortunately, not much is known about amphibians and reptiles Ondiri Swamp. Opportunistic records mainly from ornithologists indicate that two endemic amphibians occur in Ondiri, these include the Bladder Reed frog (Hyperolius cystocandicans) also listed as vulnerable (V) in the IUCN Red List of threatened species and Kinangop Puddle frog (Phrynobatrachus kinangopensis).  In light of all the threat facing this swamp it is important to document its biodiversity and so as to inform management decisions.

The Kenya Herpetofauna Working group visited Ondiri Swamp on 13th May 2022 in response to an invitation by the Ondiri Swamp management. The survey team of 15 participants also included four members of the friends of Ondiri Swamp. The day was bright and sunny signaling a great day a head. The team spilt into three groups for effective coverage of the swamp. While one group was wading through the middle of the wetland, the other two were walking along the edges of the. The survey went on from around 9:30 am to 1:30 pm when the group took a break as the sun was getting hotter and hence spotting the amphibians and reptiles became difficult. A few members of the team remained behind to conduct night sampling. The survey methods involved visual encounter surveys and hand-netting.  A total of 16 hours of effort was expended at the site.

By the end of it all five species were recorded, comprising of three amphibians and two reptiles.  Amphibian species include, the Nile Ridged Frog (Ptychadena nilotica) which was the most commonly observed species during the day; Peter’s Reed frog (Hyperolius glandicolor) and Marsabit Clawed frog (Xenopus borealis). The reptiles include, Von Höhnels Chameleon (Trioceros hoehnelli) which was found perched on Typha ssp and Stripped skink (Trachylepis striata) which was spotted basking on a tree at the edge of the swamp. At night the swamp came to life with loud calls of the reed frog as well as the Nile Ridged Frog. However, the team did not record both the Silver Bladder Reed frog and the Kinangop Puddle frog.

Why We Should Listen and Care for Amphibian Calls

The presence of these species in Ondiri swamp is significant as it is an indicator of a healthy wetland ecosystem. The calls of amphibians are some of the most beautiful, but sadly also some of the most threatened, sounds in the natural world. Over half of the world’s 6,000 amphibian species are now threatened with extinction, thousands are already lost. The primary cause of this decline is habitat loss and degradation, but a growing number of species are also being impacted by diseases, pollution, pesticides, and introduced predators. When amphibians disappear, it is not just their calls that are lost, but also the important ecological roles they play in both freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems.