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Tana Delta farmers and pastoralists battle severe effects of climate change

 Mwajuma Muguna at a hybrid rice seed project in Hola, Tana River County, during seed harvesting. [Robert Menza].

Morris Kadenge sits pensively under one of the tens of mango trees that dot his vast compound in Ngao village within the Tana Delta in Tana River County.

For the entire afternoon, he has been watching baboons trample over his beehives while they pluck pawpaw fruits by the edge of his farm.

Despite neighbouring the River Tana, Kadenge is one of many residents in 55 villages across 19 locations in the Tana Delta who are feeling the pressure of the prolonged drought.

“It has been dry here. Animals are scrambling for the little that’s available and that’s why the baboons have invaded my compound. They destroy my beehives when I chase them away,” Kadenge says.

The delta is prone to the adverse effects of climate change occasioned by alternating periods of floods and drought.

However, an ambitious plan to develop an industrial park to support green investments within the Tana Delta is expected to open ventures for farmers and pastoralists.

The initiative is under the European Union’s Community Resilience Building in Livelihood and Disaster Risk Management (REBUILD) project, and the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Restoration Initiative project.

It is being implemented by Nature Kenya who are working with Tana River and Lamu counties which are currently scouting for investors to put up green estates.

Dubbed the Delta Green Heart Initiative, the project currently being rolled out will cover the entire delta where farmers and pastoralists will access markets for their produce.

“The initiative seeks to spur growth with industrial estates where private companies and local entrepreneurs will set up manufacturing, processing, collection and packaging bases to utilise produce from farmers and pastoralists,” George Odera, Nature Kenya’s Tana Delta project manager said.

Odera added that farmers and pastoralists with different products within the delta are already coming together to optimise production of a variety of goods.

“We did a survey to know the potential of produce in the delta. What can be farmed and what can be introduced as part of roping in climate-smart agriculture,” he said.

Farmers like Kadenge, who is also the chair of Ngao Village Natural Resource and Land Use Committee, are registered under cooperatives to boost their earnings.

“I am registered as a bee farmer and with a network of others, we pool our produce and sell to processing industries,” Kadenge said.

In the model, some spaces will include conservancies where tourists can enjoy scenery, wildlife and boat rides while the industrial estates will bring together private companies which include local entrepreneurs.

It will also incorporate godowns for storage which will be constructed by private investors.

“Maintaining spaces for biodiversity alongside development will be beneficial, as these ecosystems will provide a range of benefits to humans,” says Dr Paul Matiku, Executive Director, Nature Kenya.                   

Dhulu Makondeni, an official with the Tana Delta Conservation Network that brings together over 100 community-based conservation organisations within the delta, said the area is productive but has been ravaged by effects of climate change.

“Over time, there have been a lot of changes in the delta where weather patterns are unpredictable and extreme. This has led to scramble for the few resources,” Makondeni said.

According to Odera, there is an influx of livestock in the delta following the prolonged dry spell.

The animals weigh down on restoration initiatives currently taking place as they stray in areas that have been restored. 

Although Odera says there is no proper data on the number of livestock within the delta, it is approximated that they have surpassed 600,000 animals.

But while the delta remains key for both farmers and pastoralists, efforts have been put in place to mitigate the adverse effects on the pressures it faces due to climate change.

Already, 1.4 tonnes of seeds have been distributed across the delta.  

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