Small scale fisheries in Tana Delta: The case of Lake Shakababo

The Tana River Delta is a biodiversity-rich wetland habitat that boasts of several unique animal species. One of these species is the endemic Labeo sp. Nov. ‘Baomo’ fish listed as Vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. 

Researchers from Kenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team (KENWEB) are undertaking a project in the Delta aimed at conserving the Labeo sp. Nov. ‘Baomo’ fish species through securing its habitat. The project, funded by the Rufford Foundation, seeks to mitigate, reduce and, where possible, eliminate adverse impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Tana Delta floodplains. 

The project team embarked on its first conservation activity in August 2021. The team conducted fish sampling at Lake Shakababo to collect scientific information on Labeo sp. Nov. ‘Baomo’. The species belongs to the family Cyprinidae and was left unnamed due to inadequate data and specimens. During the field activity, the team did not manage to capture samples of Labeo sp. Nov. ‘Baomo’. However, fishermen reported the presence of the species at the lake. 

The team sampled seven other fish species at the lake, including Gregori’s Labeo, East Coast/Tana Squeaker, Silver Catfish, Sabaki Tilapia, Sharp-tooth Catfish, Tana Bulldog and Red-fin Robber. These represent seven of 44 fish species recorded in the entire Tana Delta wetland ecosystems, indicating a high diversity of fish species. 

In addition to sampling, the researchers also conducted a community education and awareness workshop with fisherfolk, pastoralists, farmers, and traders at the Tarassa trading centre in Tana Delta. A discussion on the importance of enhancing river connectivity with the floodplain wetlands and the need to strengthen the Lake Shakababo Beach Management Unit (BMU) to undertake monitoring, control, and surveillance of local fishing activities took place during the workshop. 

Unsustainable fishing and the use of inappropriate gear were cited as hindrances to the growth of the local fisheries during the discussion. Fisherfolk further reported the invasion of Prosopis juliflora trees onto fishing sites, calling for the clearing of dead stumps in the lake area to improve fishing efficiency. 

Members of the Lake Shakababo BMU received 20 standard gauged gill nets, alongside other fishing accessories, from the researchers. The donation will go a long way in motivating fisherfolk to adopt sustainable fishing practices and protect the ecosystem they rely on for their daily livelihoods.

In subsequent field activities, the project will conduct habitat restoration activities at Lake Shakababo. Restoration will involve uprooting stumps of Prosopis juliflora in the lake. The team will continue to support the Lake Shakababo BMU to build its capacity in fisheries resource management.

Restoration champions of Upper Yala

Jane Wangithi carefully arranges a pile of propagated tree seedlings on a new tree nursery adjacent to a stream in Kusa village, Central Asembo, Bondo Sub-county. Wangithi has been on shift for the day tending to the tree nursery at a farm. 

Wangithi is one of the 30 members of the Rambugu-Hafife Farmers’ Group, a community-based organisation (CBO) based in Siaya County. This CBO is a constituent member of the bigger Yala Ecosystem Site Support Group (YESSG), the Nature Kenya site support group for Yala Swamp. 

Rambugu-Hafife is among the vibrant community groups championing the conservation of Yala Swamp. The group’s activities revolve around habitat restoration within the upper Yala area, conservation agriculture and commercial tree farming as part of its sustainability program.

“We do all these activities as members. Everyone has a slotted time to work on the farm. It is rewarding because whoever works get some allowances,” Wangithi says. 

Rambugu-Hafife started in 2004. The group grows farm vegetables including kales and traditional indigenous vegetables. Within its established nurseries are fruit trees that include grafted mangoes and avocados that they sell to farmers locally.

“We sell the vegetables for local consumption. We also sell commercial trees to farmers and institutions in Siaya, Busia and Kakamega,” the group’s chairperson, Jacob Sijenyi, said.

For their commercial tree planting venture, the group has been leasing parcels of land to plant trees, in addition to three acres they have bought. Through this venture, they supply firewood to schools. The group also supplies logs for use in construction.

“The secret behind our success is that we have vibrant activities to support our restoration activities. We have a table banking group that has grown over time, and at the moment, every farmer has a cow courtesy of the group. We have also bought land from the earnings and savings from these ventures,” Sijenyi added.

The group was among the beneficiaries of water pumps provided by Nature Kenya, which they say have greatly helped in irrigating their produce.

Moses Nyawasa, Nature Kenya extension officer based in the Yala ecosystem, says the group is one of those that have managed to sustain their activities.

“The group has been able to sustain its restoration activities while undertaking conservation agriculture initiatives worth emulating,” Nyawasa said.

In the past year, the group has managed to plant 20,000 indigenous trees as part of its restoration plan.

Mining with Nature – Working with the Community in Forest Management

The value of engaging local communities in conservation has intensified during this time of climate change. Resilience and mitigation strategies to address the impacts of unpredictable weather and natural disasters for both people and wildlife require collaborations at the landscape level and beyond. Vulnerable people living adjacent to the forest are deeply dependent on the natural forest resource for their livelihoods and therefore stand to lose the most. 

In 2014, Base Titanium (a company mining heavy minerals in Kwale County) collaborated with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and initiated community empowerment projects within neighbouring Gogoni Forest. 

One of their critical undertakings is the propagation of indigenous trees to help with maintaining biodiversity and mitigating climate change. Combining the rich local knowledge with conservation and field training equips community groups with hands-on tree propagating experience. Once propagation knowledge is passed on, the community takes over. 

Another project is the propagation of bamboo, which plays a vital role in protecting soils and watershed areas. The increased bamboo production by communities around the forest reduces pressure on natural resources. 

Similarly, vetiver grass is suitable for erosion and sediment control because of its ability to slow runoff, giving rainfall a better chance of soaking into the soil. Gogoni-Gazi community Forest Association (CFA), through Base Titanium support, is among the leading community groups in vetiver supply within the coastal region. 

In 2019, through Base Titanium assistance, the Gogoni-Gazi CFA acquired butterfly rearing permits from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). The CFA then acquired skills in food plants identification and trapping techniques.The pupae are exported to international butterfly houses in Europe and America. 

Lastly, to strengthen livelihoods, the communities surrounding Base Titanium have been introduced to beekeeping. Communities now understand how bees improve pollination and thus increase crop yield. Support includes the provision of beehives, beekeeping clothes and honey harvesting equipment 

Insecticides recommended for withdrawal in the Kenyan market

 A recent expert study recommends the immediate banning of the pesticides listed below, that are harmful to human health and the environment. 

The study was presented by: Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya (BIBA-K) , Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) , Resources Oriented Development Initiatives (RODI) and Route to Food Initiative (RTFI). 

Carbofuran is banned in the United States of America and Europe. Also ‘technically’ banned in Kenya but still available. It is widely used to control insects on a wide variety of crops. Carbofuran is one of the most used insecticide in illegal and intentional poisoning of wildlife, including vultures, in East Africa. Listed as a highly hazardous product. 

The following chemicals are recommended for immediate withdrawal: 

Acephate is used to control of armyworm on maize. Highly toxic to humans, mammals, birds and honeybees. Sold in eight products in Kenya. Listed as a highly hazardous product. 

Bifenthrin is used to control of aphids, whiteflies, thrips, caterpillars, leaf miners, spider mites, bollworms and diamond back moth on french beans, snow peas, citrus, barley, tomatoes and onions. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Dichlorvos is registered In Kenya in only one product to control mites, aphids, thrips on coffee. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Carbaryl is an obsolete insecticide. In Kenya it is registered in only two products to control aphids on citrus, grapes and tomatoes. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Chlorpyrifos (CPS) is registered in 25 products. It is not allowed to be applied on vegetables. It is only registered for control of various insect pests on barley, maize, wheat and pineapples. Despite this, it is one of the most used pesticides by farmers in Kirinyaga and Murang’a on kale, maize, tomatoes, melon, avocado, sweet potatoes, cabbage, rice and coffee. Listed as a highly hazardous product. 

Permethrin is a contact insecticide. It is registered in three products to control maize stalkborer and other insects in stored grains. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Dimethoate is an insecticide registered in 13 products to control various insect pests on coffee, potatoes, tobacco and cotton. Although it in not registered for foliar spay in vegetables and fruits, some farmers in Kenya are using it on cabbage, maize and tomatoes. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Omethoate is a systemic insecticide and acaricide, available as a soluble concentrate. It is the breakdown product of dimethoate but also sold in one product in Kenya. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Imidacloprid is an insecticide registered in 42 products to control a variety of insect pests on various crops. Farmers use it regularly on a wide range of crops, including coffee, cabbage, kale, maize, tomatoes, French beans, chillies, sweet potatoes, coriander, melon, spinach and beans. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Thiacloprid is an insecticide registered in one product to control sucking and chewing insect pests on chillies, eggplant, tomatoes and onions. 

Malathion is a broad-spectrum insecticide. It is registered in 13 products to control a wide range of sucking and chewing insects on various crops. Farmers are using malathion on cabbage, maize, kale, tomatoes, avocadoes, sweet potatoes, cucumber, rice, beans and melons.

Pymetrozine is an insecticide, registered in two products to control aphids, white flies and thrips in cabbage, kale and beans. 

The following chemicals are recommended for phased withdrawal: 

Abamectin is an insecticide used to control of red spider mites, leaf miners, thrips, aphids on tomatoes, cabbages, french beans, broccoli, snow peas, potatoes and chilies. Sold in 38 products in Kenya. Listed as a highly hazardous product. 

Deltamethrin is an insecticide and veterinary treatment that is approved for use in the EU, Australia and the US. In Kenya, it is registered in 10 products to control a wide range of pests on a wide range of crops including french beans, barley, wheat, maize, citrus, onions, tomatoes, cabbages, peas, broccoli, cucumber and pepper. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Gamma-Cyhalothrin is a broad-spectrum insecticide and is registered in one product to control sucking insects on french beans. However, Lambda-Cyhalothrin is registered in many more products and is regularly used by farmers. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Fenitrothion is an insecticide that is registered in four products to control sucking and chewing pests on maize and wheat, mainly on stored grains. However, some farmers in Kenya also apply it to control pests on tomatoes, mangoes, sweet potatoes, rice, coffee, kale and maize. Listed as a highly hazardous product.

Oxydemeton-methyl Also known as, methylmercaptophos oxide, it is registered in two products to control a variety of sucking and chewing insect pests on citrus, wheat, potatoes, maize and barley. 

Source: Scientific Report on Pesticides in the Kenyan Market

Climate Change COP26 Highlights

Significant progress was made on several fronts at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last month, such as shifting away from fossil fuels, tackling methane emissions, and protecting nature and biodiversity. However, the world still has a long way to go in the years ahead. Here are some highlights on progress made and areas that still need some work. 

1. Public funding and private financing must connect 

Financial institutions representing trillions of dollars have committed to tackling climate change but getting that money to the right place remains a major challenge. The vast majority of private sector climate financing today goes to developed countries and proven technologies, even though early-stage technologies and developing markets will need some of the biggest investments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). 

2. Governing carbon markets 

Countries reached a deal on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which will govern international carbon markets and ensure emissions reductions are not double-counted among countries. The agreement could also foster growth in voluntary carbon markets where companies buy carbon credits to help meet their net-zero goals. 

3. More than 100 countries pledge to end deforestation 

Pledges to preserve or restore nature as part of addressing climate change garnered more attention at COP26 than in past years, particularly on the issue of stopping deforestation. More than 100 countries, including Kenya, Brazil, China, Russia and the US pledged to end deforestation by 2030. And more than 30 financial institutions with more than $8.7 trillion in assets under management committed to phasing out deforestation from their commodity portfolios by 2025. 

4. Climate commitments require more accountability 

We saw progress at COP26 in terms of government agreements and private sector pledges. However, there is a need to strengthen accountability. For example, nearly 200 nations agreed to “phase down” coal-fired power plants and most fossil fuel subsidies. These nations also pledged to set more ambitious emission reduction targets just a year from now, instead of in a handful of years when the next set of country pledges are due. But countries need to follow through on those commitments with related policies and programs, and companies and investors need consistent standards for tracking progress toward those pledges. 

5. A focus on buildings’ carbon intensity 

While much of the focus at COP26 was on moving away from fossil fuels, emissions from the construction sector remain a key challenge yet to be fully addressed at the government and private-sector levels. Existing buildings and new construction are the source of nearly 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions and use up half of all extracted materials, according to the World Green Building Council, a U.S. nonprofit group. But knowing whether COP26 helped move the needle on this issue will likely become clearer in the coming years as governments move to decarbonize across all aspects of their economy.