On Thursday and Friday last week the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Team met for an all day meeting that included most of the relevant governmental ministeries: Water & Irrigation, Agriculture, Env & Mineral Resources, Information & Communication, Fisheries, Finance, and Lands together with NEMA, a large delegation from the Office of the Prime Minister, KWS, Kenya Forest Service and then NGO’s including NatureKenya (who catalysed the whole thing) together with RSPB and BirdLife International and some Dutch delta management expert consultants in particular from Deltares (a not-for-profit knowledge institute). It was hugely encouraging to see and hear the positive take from the government regarding developing a national Board to deal with deltas nation-wide starting with the Tana River Delta. An introduction was given to the SEA process (Strategic Environmental Assessment) which would appear to be an excellent approach to major developments in assessing the overarching impact it might have on the environment, economy and local communities.
The full day of meeting was followed by yesterday – a field trip right into the heart of the delta to actually get to see what it looks like and especially to meet some of the community groups and hear their issues. Strict instructions were given on what time we were leaving, 7:30am – and anyone not there then would be left behind – so I got up early & left in a hurry… forgetting hat and sunglasses… and of course got there to end up waiting for over an hour! A good chance to talk with Kristy who is employed by the Delta Dunes Camp to work with the Lower Tana River Delta Conservation Trust that is trying to set up a conservancy that can be used for tourism as well as protect and conserve some of the remaining wildlife – especially the elephant, lion, topi, hippo and birdlife.
We piled into three buses and headed for Garsen on the Tana River where the road for Lamu crosses the river. After a stop to greet and brief the District Commissioner for Tana River District, we headed to the TARDA guest house for tea before being divided into groups for visiting three different sites and community groups.
stopping by the DC’s office
Serah Munguti organising participants
I ended up in the group that went to meet with the Lower Tana Delta Conservancy Trust. This was a very interesting meeting with about 200 community members where the key issues raised were firstly getting the land back that had been grabbed by outsiders – the ranch was put up for auction earlier in the year.
Welcome committee from the ladies at Marafa
Another issue was getting rid of the squatters that the MP had brought onto the southern area of the land in order to get votes (I was told this from two different sources that same day). They are clearing forest and killing the wildlife and basically destroying the area. Another issue was the huge number of cattle being brought in from outside the delta and finishing off the grass and adding massive pressure to the already stretched resources of grass and water. They were also keen that the river be re-routed to it’s original channel that flowed past where they are based – it now flows c.10kms away and they no longer experience the regular flooding that would happen annually.
Peter Odhengo, Office of the PM speaking to LTDC Trust
It was excellent to hear their views and I hope the government ministries heard what was being said and that action will be taken. The other groups had a very different experience, especially the group that went to Dida Waride – where the people had been primed beforehand by those against the planning initiative to condemn and reject the whole process. It’s a little uncertain quite what their problem was though one thing for sure was they wanted TARDA, the sugar-cane project, to give back their land and to hand back the actual title deed – and to have it now, not next week! It’s hugely short-sighted of those behind the stirring as this process is fully intending to ensure the local community benefit suggesting there are personal benefits to gain from those doing it… Anyone out there who prays… we need to pray that these people would see the sense of the planning initiative and would support it whole heartedly. There’s a lot of potential for real good to happen, but if a small faction is against it, in time they can cause a lot of problems.
Paul Matiku of NatureKenya addressing the group
As should have been expected, we got back to the place we were to have lunch, not by 2pm but 4:30pm and ended up leaving nearer 6 and I got home just after 10pm in the end…! A communique was put together to make a statement about the intention of the team gathering. I’ll try and get this onto the tanariverdelta.org website in due course.