Home > Communities & conservation > Tana River Local Community fighting for their land & to conserve biodiversity

Just before I came back South Africa I met with Maulidi Diwayu in Malindi. He’d been calling me frequently to try and set up a meeting before he headed back into the Tana River Delta where he’s from in order to discuss the huge challenge of the sugarcane project threatening to destroy the delta.

Diwayu in Malindi - Chairman of TADECO Diwayu in Malindi en route to the Delta

Diwayu is from Garsen which is the main (though small) town for the delta situated just upstream of where the river starts to thread into numerous channels and over flow its banks more regularly – the nature of a delta. He is chairman of TADECO (the Tana River Conservation Organisation) which is a local, community-based NGO set up in 1997 to try and conserve the biodiversity of the Delta in conjunction with the livelihoods of the local communities living in and around the delta.

TADECO’s main objective currently is to fight the sugar cane project being forced on them by the Tana River Development Authority (TARDA) and Mumias Sugar Co. as the project has been deemed hugely detrimental to the local community as well as clearly so for the environment. Diwayu actually used to be an employee of TARDA – part of their monitoring and evaluation team but in 1998 he pointed out to TARDA the inadequacies of the rice scheme they were trying to introduce (as his job was supposed to do) where basically the only beneficiaries of the project were going to be the government and not the local farmers. He presented a paper at a workshop titled “Community participation as a tool for sustainable development” where he talked of the importance of including local community members directly in decision-making and developing concepts and plans for development of an area. TARDA misunderstood him, took his presentation to be subversive and sacked him at the workshop!!

This led to him setting up TADECO to try and bring a voice to the people and to conserve the rich biodiversity of the delta. TADECO is effectively an ‘umbrella organisation’ for the whole delta. It’s members are therefore a number of smaller CBOs (Community Based Orgs) which may include youth groups, women groups, church groups, farmer groups etc..

The main activities of TADECO are to:

  • – raise community awareness about the issues facing the delta
  • – educate the community about the importance of the delta
  • – carry out advocacy campaigns against projects / activities that are destructive to the delta’s environment
  • – solicit funding for the member groups to undertake eco-friendly activities
  • – organise and facilitate community training programmes

With the sugar project seriously threatening the delta, Diwayu is on a mission now to do all that he can through TADECO to sensitise the people about the project and its effects. He was at the public hearings that TARDA had back in May and was part of the team who pointed out very clearly the inadequacies of the project. Despite the loud resistance to the project by the communities living in the delta together with the conservationists pointing out the huge importance of the delta for its biodiversity, the government has gone ahead and issued a license to the sugar project. TADECO has therefore taken the issue to the High Court with the help of those conservation bodies involved in protecting the delta.

Simultaneously the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) are putting forward the Delta as a proposed RAMSAR site which will greatly assist in preventing destructive activities happening there. Meetings have been going on this month with stakeholders and experts regarding the RAMSAR issue and hopefully it won’t be long before it is accepted. Diwayu has been keenly involved in all these discussions and has travelled to Nairobi to take part in the meetings as a key community member.

Diwayu, therefore is extremely active and a key player in the fight to conserve this threatened wetland. When I talked to him, he gave me a proposal that he had written for TADECO that was seeking for funds to do the awareness raising and education of the delta communities. For this he plans to travel from village to village (see what one of them looks like below) to sensitize the people on what the effect of the sugar project will be. He plans to hold 48 public ‘barazas’ (meetings) in each of the villages.

a village in the Tana River Delta, Kenya

For this he and two others will need to either walk, bike, boat or travel in public transport from one village to the next. The main cost here therefore is transport costs. 10 litres of fuel for a boat costs $14 and they would probably need 20-30 litres per day; sometimes it would be best for them to even hire a vehicle which will cost more like $75 per day. If anyone is keen to support this crucial component of the fight for the delta, please do donate through this blog – make sure you add a reference that it is for Diwayu so we know where to channel it.

NatureKenya and the Wetlands Forum continue to do a very good job at raising the profile of the plight of the Delta and I’ll try and give you updates as often as possible.