first_imgCattle, Cattle Ranching, Drought, Fish, Fishing, Forests, Rivers Article published by Genevieve Belmaker Local fishermen say that just five years ago they could catch up to 90 pounds of fish per day – now they are lucky to get 20 pounds’ worth.Extensive mangrove forests in the Tana Delta — declared a protected site under the RAMSAR convention (an intergovernmental treaty on wetlands) in 2012 — are at risk.The Kenyan government is implementing plans for the country’s biggest dam to date, called the High Grand Falls Dam, as well as a scheme to irrigate a million acres along the banks of the Tana.While the dam has many downstream worried, the government has said it will be vital to Kenya’s economic development and will help the delta in times of flooding. Every morning, Abdu Hajy, 65, takes his canoe out into the murky waters of the Tana River Delta to fish. He’s been following the same routine, in his hometown of Kipini on the Kenyan coast, for the last four decades. But he is not sure how much longer the river can support his livelihood.Just five years ago, Hajy says he could catch almost 90 pounds of fish a day. These days, he’s lucky to get 20 pounds. Some days, he gets nothing. On a recent morning he and his fishing partner, Michael Mwangona, 50, pulled out just three small catfish from their nets.“It’s a big worry that we won’t be able to survive here,” Hajy said.Abdu Hajy (left) and Michael Mwangona return after fishing in the Tana River Delta, on the coast of Kenya. Photo by Nathan Siegel for Mongabay.Hajy and Mwangona aren’t the only ones dependent on the Tana who fear for their future. Dozens of farmers and pastoralists interviewed during a recent trip to the area said that they have noted decreasing water levels and increased sediment, and their crops and pastureland have suffered as a result. However, no official studies have been done to corroborate locals’ experience.Meanwhile, the extensive mangrove forests that abound in the Tana Delta — which were declared part of a protected site under the RAMSAR convention (an intergovernmental treaty on wetlands) in 2012 — are under threat from drought, decreasing water levels and pastoralists who graze their cattle in the forests. Ramsar notes that it is the second most important estuarine and deltaic ecosystem in Eastern Africa.Cows are led to pasture in the mangrove forests on the Tana River Delta, in Kenya. Photo by Nathan Siegel for Mongabay.Local and international non-governmental organizations say that upstream development on the Tana River, including numerous hydroelectric dams, massive irrigation schemes and pipelines to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, have strained resources in the delta. An ongoing drought is compounding the problem. The Red Cross estimates 2.7 million people now need “urgent food assistance” overall in Kenya due to drought, which has been particularly harsh in coastal regions like Tana Delta.The 620-mile Tana River is Kenya’s longest river and most important waterway. Including tributaries, it provides approximately half of the country’s electricity and 80 percent of Nairobi’s water. But many say that the Tana Delta has been excluded from conversations about development on the river and how the infrastructure projects will affect downstream populations.“Those developing the river don’t care about us in the delta,” said Awadh Mubarak, chairman of the Kipini Community Conservation Management Forum, which manages and protects the mangrove forests along the delta and is supported by Wetlands International. “We didn’t find out about the new dam and irrigation scheme until they were already under way.”Fish are brought in to the Kipini fish market, Kenya. Photo by Nathan Siegel for Mongabay.The dam and irrigation scheme Mubarak is referring to is looming over many people’s lives in the delta. The government is already moving ahead with plans for the country’s biggest dam to date, called the High Grand Falls Dam, as well as a scheme to irrigate a million acres along the banks of the Tana. These new developments could reduce water levels downstream by about a third, says Julie Mulonga, program manager of Wetlands International in Kenya. According to Mulonga, ultimately “the delta communities will suffer the most” from upstream developments.The government claims that the new developments are not only essential for the continued growth of Kenya’s economy but will also help those downstream. Robinson Gaita, director of irrigation and water storage at the Kenya’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation says the new dam will serve to control water flow to the delta, which can be released during times of drought. However, locals in the delta fear that the government will prioritize farms and residents upstream.As for irrigation schemes, Gaita says that the added food production has helped offset drought-stricken farms in the delta by way of food assistance — although elders from a half dozen villages in the delta said during recent interviews that they have so far received no food aid after more than a year of severe drought. “We are considering everybody’s needs,” Gaita said.‘Yearning for water’In years past, tensions over resources along the Tana Delta have led to tribal clashes. In 2013, more than 100 were killed and thousands displaced after violence broke out between Orma pastoralists and Pokomo farmers. Pasture and water were scarce, as they are now, leading pastoralists and farmers to fight over access to these precious resources.Fear of renewed conflict is growing. With elections scheduled for August of this year and no end to the drought in sight, there could be trouble on the horizon, says Mohammed Nasser, a farmer from a riverside village called Kau. Nasser’s village was burned down in 2013 during the tribal clashes, and three people were killed. “We are scared it will happen again,” he said.Cows drink in a dried lake near Kipini, Kenya. Photo by Nathan Siegel for Mongabay.For cattle herders, the reality of available pastureland and water is a more pressing concern than possible tribal clashes. Suleiman Abdi, 18, has seen one-third of his family’s cattle die since the start of the drought. His relatives have taken the healthy cows more than sixty miles away for pasture. Abdi takes the remaining animals to feed in the mangrove forests along the Tana River Delta, where cows can eat tree seedlings. He is aware that grazing cows in the mangroves is destructive to the environment, but argues for survival of one species over another.“What else can we do — let our cows die?” he asks.Meanwhile in farming communities along the delta, entire harvests have failed. Zablon Katende, 49, is a farmer from the riverside town of Kipini. He wasn’t able to harvest any of his maize crop this year. His mango trees are also suffering and he is not sure whether he will be able to provide for his five children.While Katende’s crop fails, water from the Tana is being used to supply a new 10,000-acre maize farm upstream, called the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme. Though the project has been a success, Katende says these kinds of developments upstream are hurting the individual farmer.“Everyone is now yearning for water,” he said.Possible solutionsUpstream, a number of large companies and government agencies have acknowledged the issues of water shortage and high sediment levels and are starting to tackle them. The Nature Conservancy recently launched Africa’s first water fund, in which major stakeholders like Coca-Cola and the Kenyan government support water and soil conservation measures in the upper basin of the Tana River. So far, the water fund has provided nearly 15,000 farmers with training, resources and equipment to preserve the river environment, according to The Nature Conservancy.Remnants of rooms from the Tana River Lodge after erosion washed them in to the Tana River Delta, in Kipini, Kenya. Photo by Nathan Siegel for Mongabay.But fisherman Hajy wonders why there aren’t similar projects to help those downstream. Every day at the same time that Hajy and his partner head out to the river, foreign fishermen — mostly from neighboring Tanzania — sail to fish in the ocean just beyond the river mouth.They have the advantage of proper boats and nets, allowing them to cash in on tons of fish per day. But locals like Hajy don’t have the funds to invest in that kind of equipment, leaving him to settle for small and increasingly scarce fish in the river.“What more can I do with this boat,” he asks, pointing to his small wooden canoe, which looks feeble compared to the sail boats used in the ocean.Banner image: Fish are brought in to the Kipini fish market, Kenya. Photo by Nathan Siegel for Mongabay.Nathan Siegel is a Nairobi, Kenya based freelance photographer and writer. Follow him on Twitter at @nathansiegFEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.center_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img