Integrating scientific and traditional knowledge for co-management of socio-ecological landscapes for the well-being of communities in the flood-dependent lower floodplain agroforestry, pastoral and fishery systems of the eastwards flowing rivers of Eastern Africa



  • Kenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research team (KENWEB)


  • 26/11/2011

  • REGION :

  • Eastern Africa


  • Kenya


  • KENWEB has in the year 2011 been successful in working in all clusters proposed in the area of co-management of wetlands in East Africa. These have comprised multi-disciplinary field excursions to gather data in the case study sites and other high priority sites; dissemination of findings through photographic exhibitions and a documentary; policy research and advocacy for conservation of wetlands; partnerships with like-minded organisations in wetlands management; student and intern mentorships among others. The report gives brief overviews on KENWEB’s activities in each cluster proposed in our case study as members of the IPSI.

Cluster 1: Knowledge Facilitation: Synthesis and normalisation of the existing data at different scales (local, river basin, regional).

Students and researchers of KENWEB have put a database of publications and books on the Tana River Delta together for use. Similarly, articles and information available on hard copy or soft copy have been deposited into a repository for easier access for background studies by members and collaborators.

Cluster 2: Policy Research:

Members of KENWEB have continued to be involved in the following international and national policy to advocate for wetlands conservation and management. This has been possible through the following forums:

  • Kenya Ramsar Committee – members have assisted the national node of the Ramsar convention in Kenya in information and processes necessary in designation of the Tana River Delta as a Ramsar Site.
  • Prime Minister’s Task Force on Deltas of Kenya – Members of KENWEB have been invited to participate in this task force to facilitate knowledge and information for management of the various deltaic wetlands of Kenya.
  • Kenya Wetlands Forum – KWF is an advocacy instrument for Kenyan Wetlands under heavy development or degradation. KENWEB is a member of this forum and has continued to provide information supporting conservation in various issues including land-use, community perspectives and justice and water needs for the ecosystem

Cluster 3: Indicators Research: Biodiversity assessments

KENWEB has carried out two multi-disciplinary field trips in 2011 to describe the biodiversity values and services necessary for optimal functioning of two wetlands of Kenya and to assess the threats to their survival.

Tana River Delta, Kenyan Coast (May 2nd to 7th 2011): A team of 14 scientists, interns and students collaborated in a multi-disciplinary field trip to carry out a biodiversity survey of various sites of the Tana River Delta. The team consisted of the following teams/ groups: mammal; fish; macroinvertebrate and water quality; birds; plants; socio-economic issues; and mapping. The sites visited including ox-bow lakes at Lango la Simba, Onkolde forest, Lake Moa and its village and the Shetani forest. During this visit, filming of scientists at work with communities took place for preparation of a documentary on participatory science.

The presence of 2 of the world’s most threatened primate species, the Tana Red Colobus and the Tana Mangabey, was confirmed in the Delta an area from which they were previously unknown. A significant population (about 30% of the world population) of the Madagascar Pratincole was discovered in the Tana Delta. The presence of over a dozen threatened plant species was confirmed, some of them endangered. Two plant species, a Dichapetalum and a Stictocardia found are probably new to science.

Loboi Swamp, Kenyan Rift Valley (August 8th to 14th 2011): For this fieldwork, a team of 18 scientists, interns and students in the following groups worked together to make the first ever biodiversity survey of the swamp: mammal; fish; macroinvertebrate and water quality; birds; plants; socio-economic issues; and mapping.

The results from both surveys are under continuous analyses and preparations for publications. The next field trips will be carried out in 2012 to monitor and carry out recommendations from the studies.

Cluster 4 : Capacity Building

Knowledge sharing:

1. KENWEB Photographic Exhibition entitled “Tana River Delta – A wetland in the Balance”

This exhibition is suitable for students aged 12yrs and above. During its exhibition guided tours by scientists and interns of KENWEB have been organized for Kenyan and International schools.

The photographic exhibition presents the diversity and the richness of the natural and cultural heritage of the Tana Delta and is accompanied by informative text in English presenting the work of the research team, highlighting issues related to its water and land management

It also presents a unique opportunity for students to get a first-hand understanding of the dynamics of multidisciplinary biodiversity research including community participatory assessments and monitoring, stimulating interest in environmental issues and inspiring students to consider careers in the sciences.

The exhibition has so far been shown in three localities:

  • Alliance Française de Nairobi (June 7th to 17th July 2011) – where it was launched by the Kenyan Ambassador of France and the Director General of the National Museums of Kenya.
  • Alliance Française de Mombasa (July 22nd to August 17th 2011)
  • National Museums of Kenya, Ecology Gallery – (August 30th to October 30th 2011).

2. KENWEB Documentary and Panel discussions

During the time of the exhibition of the Tana River Delta photographic exhibition, two panel discussions were organized in Nairobi and in Mombasa on the 27th June and the 16th August 2011 respectively.

The documentary “Participatory Science: Restoration and sustainability of Tana Delta” was viewed during these meetings followed by discussions. The documentary runs for 24 minutes and was produced by Khamis Ramadhan, a renowned Kenyan film maker who specializes on socio-economic and political issues. It features the work of KENWEB scientists and participatory methods of biodiversity and hydrology studies. It brings out important issues regarding land, water, and natural resource use and management. It also features music and songs by a local community youth group on conservation issues of the Tana Delta.

3. Student Training and mentoring:

In 2011 KENWEB scientists have been able to mentor a total of 9 students and assist them in acquiring scholarships, grants and assistance for their studies. These consist of 2 undergraduate students, 1 Master’s and 2 PhDs. These students have been involved in all field activities and laboratory experiments and received training and mentorship in proposal and report writing.

4. KENWEB website:
The group’s website has recently been upgraded to allow room for pictures and more information added to enable persons interested in working or partnering with KENWEB to understand what its vision and activities are.

5. Collaborative Activities:
KENWEB has recently accepted collaboration with  the following national, regional and international partners:

  • Tulane University in New Orleans (USA) and the Freshwater section of The Nature Conservancy to present proposals to the US National Science Foundation for funding on the Tana Basin in Kenya.
  • The International Water Centre has also recently proposed scholarships for students at the Monach University in Pretoria for training in Water Resource Management. Two interns from KENWEB will be applying for this grant.
  • The Laikipia Wildlife Foundation has submitted to IPSI an application for membership in a bid to further work with KENWEB in IPSI’s collaborative projects. This application is now at an advanced level.
  • The East African Wildlife Society who are actively lobbying the government and supporting communities in legal issues concerning landuse and developments in the delta has also included KENWEB into their network in order to provide scientific data and knowledge on socio-economic issues concerning land use.
  • KENWEB has been accredited to attend the first Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services (IPBES)


KENWEB members have disseminated their results through scientific papers :

  • Hamerlynck O., Luke Q., Nyange T.M., Duvail S. & Leauthaud C. (In Press). Range Extension, Imminent Threats and Conservation Options for Two Endangered Primates: the Tana River Red Colobus Procolobus rufomitratus rufomitratus (Peters, 1879) and the Tana River Mangabey Cercocebus galeritus (Peters, 1879) in the Lower Tana Floodplain and Delta, Kenya. African Primates, accepted for publication on 30/05/2011.
  • Hamerlynck O., Duvail S., Vandepitte L., Kindinda K., Nyingi D.W, Paul J.L., Yanda P., Mgaya Y., & Snoeks J. (in press). To connect or not to connect – floods, fisheries and livelihoods in the Lower Rufiji floodplain, Tanzania. Hydrological Sciences Journal – Special Issue on ecosystem services of wetlands, accepted for publication on 23/05/2011.
  • Paul J.L. Duvail S. Hamerlynck O. (in press). Appropriation des ressources « naturelles » et criminalisation des communautés paysannes : le cas du Rufiji (Tanzanie). Civilisations, accepted for publication on 10/05/2011.
  • Hamerlynck O., Nyunja J., Luke Q., Nyingi D., Lebrun D., Duvail S., 2010. The communal forest wetland, rangeland and agricultural landscape mosaics of the Lower Tana, Kenya: a socio-ecological entity in peril. In “Sustainable use of Biological Diversity in Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes, Background to the Satoyama Initiative for the benefit of biodiversity and human well-being”. Convention on Biological Diversity Technical Series n° 52, 184 p. pp. 54-62.
  • Duvail S., Valimba P., Nyunja J., Nyingi D., Hamerlynck O., Léauthaud C., Albergel J., 2010. “Floods and Ecosystem Services in Coastal Wetlands”. Proceedings of the national workshop on research in the water sector, held at Utalii college, Nairobi, on 5th may, 2010. pp 14-28.
  • Hamerlynck, O., Duvail, S., Hoag, H., Yanda, P., Paul, J.-L. 2010. The large-scale irrigation potential of the Lower Rufiji Floodplain (Tanzania): reality or persistent myth? In: Calas, B. & Mumma Martinon C.A. (Eds). Shared water, shared opportunities. Hydropolitics in East Africa. IFRA and Hekima College, Nairobi, Kenya: 219-234.
  • Lebrun, D., Hamerlynck, O., Duvail, S. & Nyunja, J. 2010. The importance of flexibility: an analysis of the large-scale Tana Delta irrigation project in Kenya, implemented under an estate system. In: Calas, B. & Mumma Martinon C.A. (Eds). Shared water, shared opportunities. Hydropolitics in East Africa. IFRA and Hekima College, Nairobi, Kenya: 261-282.


Results have been presented at the following conferences

  • Duvail S. 2011. Presentation “Land and Water grabbing in East Africa”. Australian-French workshop on « water and land » 14 – 17 june 2011. Montpellier France. Abstract
  • Duvail S. 2011. Presentation  «Natural and Cultural Heritage in East Africa : The Tana delta example », Workshop “Heritage in East Africa” IFRA, Nairobi, Kenya 17-18 January 2011. Abstract
  • Duvail S. 2010. Presentation “Environmental and social impacts of dams”. Conference at the French School. 18 November 2010.
  • Duvail S., Nyunja J., Nyingi W.D. 2010. Presentation “East african coastal wetlands as natural and cultural heritage : the listing of the Rufiji Delta (Tanzania) and the Tana Delta (Kenya) under the Ramsar convention”. Conférence Patrimoine, mémoire et politique = Heritage, memory and politics. Mombasa, Kenya 22-26 June 2010.
  • Duvail S. 2010. Presentation “Floods and Ecosystem Services in Coastal Wetlands”. National workshop on research in the water sector, Utalii college, Nairobi, Kenya, 5 may 2010.

Upcoming conferences or presentations:

  • Presentation at the Know Kenya More Workshop on the Tana River Delta. The documentary will be viewed during this workshop from October 31 to November 4th 2011.
  • Members of KENWEB have also sent five abstracts on for the Annual Scientific Conference of the National Museums of Kenya to be held from the 9th to 11th November 2011
  • KENWEB will be attending the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services (IPBES) meeting, 3-7th October 2011, Nairobi.

Cluster 5 : On-the-Ground Activities

1.Empowering local communities

KENWEB is supporting a musical youth group from one of the villages of the Tana Delta in recording their music which features conservation issues. Their hit song “Choma ninswi” which translates to ‘let’s go fishing’ has been very successful during the launch of the photographic exhibition and attracted the attention of Kenyan Youth. Their music also features prominently in the movie ‘participatory science: restoration and sustainability of the Tana Delta’.

KENWEB facilitated the travel and participation of a representative of the local communities on the discussion panels on the future of the Tana Delta following the movie showing. For the showing in Nairobi KENWEB facilitated the travel for ten members of the local communities, balanced according to gender and main livelihood (farmers, livestock keepers, fishers)

2.Participatory research approach

KENWEB has continued to work with schools and communities of the Tana Delta through monitoring of rain gauges that have been installed by the project in schools; setting up of water level staff gauges in the Tana River and working with local observers to collect readings; working with local government technical staff from the Water Resource Management Authority to measure the flow of the Tana River.

A participatory mapping exercise of the tidal bore rice irrigation area of Ozi location was conducted using transect walks, focal group discussions and semi-structured interviews. It is clear that the extent of the cultivated area is in decline under the influence of the reduced flood peaks now trapped behind the upstream dams. During one of the transect walks Monochoria Africana a plant species only recorded once in Kenya several decades ago was rediscovered.