Yala Swamp matters to all of us

In November 2022, the National Land Commission (NLC) made a determination in favour of allocating 6,763.74 Ha of Yala Swamp to Lake Agro Kenya Limited. This, together with land originally held by the collapsed Dominion Farm, will lead to over 50% of Yala Swamp allocated for destruction through planting sugar cane. This is contrary to the wishes of the people of Yala. This allocation will compromise the ability of Yala Swamp to provide fish for food, water for food crops, filtration of water before entering Lake Victoria, carbon sequestration by the papyrus, flood regulation, tourism and biodiversity. It also threatens the livelihoods of over 250,000 people who depend on Yala Swamp, including papyrus harvesting and basketry, fishing, small-scale irrigation and tour guiding. The allocation is a gross violation of the land rights of Yala’s indigenous communities.

Nature Kenya, local communities and other human rights and conservation stakeholders objected to the allocation. Through their representatives, the communities made clear submissions to the National Land Commission detailing their reasons for rejection. Other stakeholders, including government agencies – Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) – also objected.

The National Land Commission seems to be stage-managing the consultation process in order to promote sugarcane, and thus condemning Yala Swamp and the invaluable ecosystem services that the Yala community and national and global stakeholders depend on. In November, Nature Kenya was able to review a report detailing how the NLC plans to ignore the views of the stakeholders and instead subvert their rights and allocate the land to Lake Agro Kenya Limited. Nature Kenya, representing the voiceless unique fish and other biodiversity, the poor Yala communities and the national and global community, will continue to lobby the Government of Kenya to reverse NLC’s decision and instead foster the implementation of the Yala Land Use plan. We count on the power of many. Reach out to your leaders and let them know that Yala Swamp matters to all of us!