Summary of EA programme

Focusing on the Tana River Delta, the EA programme in Kenya aims to empower people through nature. The longest river in Kenya, the Tana River flows over 1000km from Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Ranges to the Indian Ocean contributing 32% of the total river runoff in Kenya through its river drainage basin. It is, together with the Rufiji Delta in Tanzania, one of the largest and most significant coastal delta ecosystems in Eastern Africa. There is no other large scale coastal ecosystem involving so many different contiguous habitats on the Kenyan coast.

The Tana Delta is rich in biodiversity, supporting several endemic and highly threatened species of flora and fauna including coastal and marine prawns, shrimps, bivalves and fish, five species of threatened marine turtles and IUCN red-listed African elephant, Tana Mangabey, Tana River Red Colobus and White-collared Monkey. Over 600 plant species have been identified, including the endangered species. It also supports many tens of thousands of wetland birds and is internationally important for the survival of no less than 22 species of birds making the delta one of the key sites in the country for waterbird conservation. These species are harbored in a variety of freshwater, floodplain, estuarine and coastal habitats with extensive and diverse mangrove systems, marine brackish and freshwater intertidal areas, pristine beaches and shallow marine areas, forming productive and functionally interconnected ecosystems.

The complexity of the Tana Delta and its associated ecosystems make it highly diverse and unique. As a result, the Tana Delta was recently designated as a Ramsar site. It is the first marine Ramsar site in Kenya, the others all being freshwater lakes, and the first outside the Rift Valley.

Participating Organizations 

Wetlands International leads the alliance while partnering with Environmental Liaison Centre International (ELCI), Nature Kenya and Wild Living Resources (WLR). The alliance jointly works towards advocacy and lobbying for protection and conservation of the delta at the same time promoting climate friendly alternative livelihoods for the local pastoral and agricultural communities.


Project Title

Wetlands International (Kenya), WI

Empowering communities on ecosystem management and sustainable development in  the Tana Delta, Kenya.

Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI)

Enhancing Community Environmental Stewardship and Utilization of Natural Resources (ECESUNAR) in the Tana River Delta

Nature Kenya (The East Africa Natural History Society—EANHS)

Sustainable Development and Management: Empowering People and Nature in the Tana Delta, Kenya

Wild Living Resources (WLR)

Empowering People and Nature in the Tana Delta, Kenya

Main background facts to the EA interventions

River deltas are known for being fragile, dynamic and extremely rich and important wetland systems, flooding in times of good rain and later drying out again. Therefore, any small amount of change in the hydrological systems will upset the delicate natural balance.

The Tana Delta has been the focus of a number of agricultural development projects over the last three decades which have been controversial and largely disliked by local communities. These include sugarcane farming, irrigation, aquaculture projects such as prawn farming, and biofuel farming.


A range of other threats are also occurring in the Tana Delta area including: i) deforestation; ii) immigration and squatters bringing slash and burn practices; iii) wildlife poaching; iv) illegal commercial prawn trawling bringing by-catch problems and impacts on local fisheries; v) unsustainable and illegal fishing particularly the use of beach seines; vi) hydrological changes such as damming and water offtake for irrigation from developments upstream.

Local communities are also hampered by unclear land ownership and security. Overall, environmental threats have been attributed to poor environmental governance and compartmentalised decision-making with little regard for ecosystem health and function.

Intervention Strategies 

The alliance implements intervention strategies to address these threats and pressures, focusing mainly on i) Direct poverty alleviation; ii) Civil society strengthening and iii) Policy intervention. The Tana Delta Land-Use Plan and the Strategic Environmental Assessment provides a new approach to integrated planning. This will make a fundamental difference in economic development and growth, community engagement and poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

At the local level, the Alliance works with communities in the delta to help them sustainably manage their local resources. This includes using solar driers instead of wood to dry fish and utilizing natural vegetation such as baobabs to produce value added products, leading to increased income.


Preetika Bhanderi, Programme Associate – Ecosystem Alliance, Wetlands International, Kenya: 

Julie Mulonga, Programme Manager, Wetlands International Africa, Kenya:

Frank van Weert, Technical Officer Water and Climate, Wetlands International, the Netherlands:

Maria Eugenia Stolk, EA Programme Coordinator:

Geographical and thematic focus areas

Geographical focus area: Tana River Delta
Thematic focus area: Livelihoods and Ecosystems; Greening the Economy; Ecosystems, People and Climate Change