World Wetlands Day 2005 -- Kenya







Background Information

Lake Chem. Chem is about 10 Kilometers from Malindi town along the Malindi Sala gate road. It is about 40o 02'E and 3o 12'S. The lake and its surrounding swamp area cover around 4,170 m2. Administratively, the lake occurs in Ganda (Mere and Ganda sub-locations) and Goshi (Malimo sub-location) Locations.

The rainfall pattern in the area is bi-modal, with the long-rains falling in March to May and Short rains falling in October to December. The rainfall amount varies from 700-1400mm per annum.

The population together with the number of households of the sub-locations in which the lake occurs is 12 048 and 1,803 respectively (National population census 1997). However, it is important to note that, the surrounding/adjacent areas to the lake are not heavily settled as the figures may indicate. Most of the people live near the trading centre but have farms (owned or not) within the lake's surrounding areas.

Socio-economic activities
The people living within the area obtain their livelihood through a number of activities. These include;
1. Fishing from the lake when it has water
2. Provision of casual labor on the farms or the local trading centre and Malindi
3. Subsistence farming
4. Livestock rearing and
5. Eco-tourism - Mainly acting as local guides to birdwatchers (tourists) from Malindi or Arabuko sokoke Forest Station. In addition there was a wildlife sanctuary where wild animals such as rhinos were kept. This was closed in 1996 due to friction between the sanctuary and the local community. The sanctuary provided employment to some members of the local community. The main reason of conflict as reported was the insistence of the sanctuary management for proper use of natural resources within the area by the local people such as use of proper fishing gear and methods, and controlled cutting of the natural vegetation (trees and shrubs).
The natural vegetation observed on uncleared/undisturbed areas such as LMAGRO farm is mainly composed of shrubs/or thickets. The dominant species are

Acacia elatior, terminalia spinosa, Harrizonia abysinica, Hyhaene compressa, Salvadora persica,Thespecia danis, Albizia anthelmintica, Lannea stuhlmanii and the grasses

In addition, Casuarina equisetifolia, Cocos nucifera, Mangifera indica, cashew nuts and bananas are also observed.

Animals that have reportedly been observed within the area or the lake are;
Hippopotamus amphibious, Crocodilus niloticus, monkeys, Buffalo and several bird species including water birds.

The area is served by dry weather roads (Malindi-Sala gate road, Ganda-Kisimani, feeder to Malindi-Sala gate road from Madunguni), motor able tracks impassable during the rains and footpaths.

The area also has a number of primary schools which may be adequate. They include Mmangani School, Maziwani Primary School, Mere SDA, Kwa-Upanga and Sabaki Primary school. In addition there are a number of nursery schools.

The area has few health centres. The nearest public health centre is in Kakuyuni about 3 Kilometers from Kwa Upanga shopping centre.

Land tenure
A bout 5% of the land surrounding the lake is private while the lake is Government Land. The oldest allocations (title deeds) were made in the 1800s' and the most recent (allotment letters) were in 1999. The information was obtained from official records and from information of the local leaders and people.

The soil within the area vary quite widely from sandy to clayey soils. On the raised grounds are sandy loam soils with some deeply weathered. On moderately steep slopes are cambisols that are well drained - with many transitional stage of development from rather young to mature ones. On the steep slopes are soils sensitive to erosion as the coherence of the materials developed is rather low. High permeability and low water holding capacity make them sensitive to droughts.

Alluvial soils (Fluvisols) developed from sediments are found in valley bottoms. The soils vary, depending on the deposition material. Well- drained sandy soils are found as well as poorly drained clayey soils. Fertility of these soils is moderate to high. They receive fresh sediments and nutrients during regular floods and occur in all basins.

High fertile vertisols are characteristics for areas with distinct rainy season in plains and depression. The drainage and the handling of the soils are problematic because vertisols contain mostly clay, which hardens and cracks during the season and waterlogs during the rains.

Around Lake Chem Chem, wet condition occur which enable salts to deposit in the topsoil as the capillary evaporates. This explains the reported salinity of the water and the observed salt accumulation on the surface on some parts of the dry lake basin.

Status of Lake Chem Chem and its surrounding area
The lake is seasonal according to information obtained both from the local people and official records. The cycle of the lake was reported as varying from 4 to 7 years depending on the amount of rainfall received in the area and flooding in river Sabaki. However, it is quite evident that the cycle of drying has become shorter.

Mombasa Marine Park Warden, Mr. Tuda Arthur giving an opening remark at the WWD 2005.



The Convention on wetlands (Ramsar, Iran 1971) is an intergovernmental treaty whose mission is " the conservation and wise use of wetlands by national and international cooperation as a means to achieving sustainable development throughout the world". Presently over 120 nations have joined the convention as contracting parties (COP) and more than 1000 wetlands around the world have been designated as ramsar wetlands of international importance.

As defined by the convention, wetlands include a wide variety of habitats such as marshes, peat lands, flood plains, rivers and lakes, and coastal areas such as salt marshes, mangrove, and sea grass beds, but also coral reefs and other marine areas no deeper than six meters at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste water treatment ponds and reservoirs.

World wetlands day is celebrated on the 2nd of February each year to commemorate the date when the convention on wetlands was first signed. The day was first celebrated in 1997 and has since served as an opportunity to undertake actions aimed at enhancing awareness on wetland values, benefits and as well as the Ramsar Convention.

On 12th February 2005 World wetlands Day was marked at Lake Chem Chem in Malindi with a local school and the community participating in performances and tree planting.

Objectives of the day
1. To involve students and communities around Lake Chem Chem in wetland conservation awareness campaign
2. To empower both students and communities in wetlands biodiversity conservation and management
3. Enhance an integrated/multiple sector approach in sustainable utilization of wetland resources for posterity


Date: Saturday 12th February 2005
Venue: Kwa Upanga Primary School near Lake Chem Chem
Theme: There's wealth in wetland diversity-Don't lose it!
Organizers: Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and Eco-ethics International Kenya (Mombasa) chapter.
Participants: The total number of participants was 762 drawn from;
1 primary school
3 community groups
VIP: The chief guest was the National Coordinator Alisei project, Dr. Balozi B. Kirongo. Other guests were drawn from the government and Non- government institutions.


8:30am - 9:00am Arrival of Participants and Registration
9:30am - 10:00 am Opening Ceremony/Ice breaking
10:00am - 10:30am Performances
10:30am - 11:00am Speeches from Invited guests
11:00am - 11:30am Tree planting Demonstration
11:30am - 12:00noon Refreshment
12:00noon - 1:00pm Visit lake Chem Chem
1:00pm - 1:30pm Awards and Closing Remark


The function was well attended with a total number of 762 participants. This was a clear indication that the importance of the day was well understood and appreciated by participants.

Event planning
The planning of this year's World Wetlands Day was excellent as there was a good team work.

Many organizations have willingly sponsored this year's event in cash or in kind. However, the Kenya Wildlife Service Wetlands was again the main sponsor.


1. Status of the lake
From our findings the lake is seasonal according to the information obtained from the local people and the official records. The cycle of the lake is reported as varying from 4 to 7 years depending on the amount of rainfall received in the area and flooding of river Sabaki (Galana). The water in the lake is reported to be salty with the local people having minimal use of it. Only livestock drink water when the level is high and water less salty.

The lake relies for its water on run-off during the rains from its surroundings and the river Sabaki when it overflows. Depending on the amount of rainfall received in the area and the level of water in the lake, water either moves into and out of the lake to river Galana. When the water level is low in the lake and Galana river overflows, there is a spill-off into the lake through the river (waterway) Baishe and vice versa when the lake water is high and Galana has not over flown. As reported by the local people, in the past the lake had another inlet known as Kwa Bibi - (an arm of Mbogolo stream) while Baishe served as an outlet. The inlet got blocked due to siltation thus leaving only Baishe acting as both inlet and outlet depending on the water levels in the lake and Galana river.

Currently the lake is facing human encroachment as evidenced by attempts of farming on the edges and cattle grazing on the lake basin. However, much encroachment into the lake is not envisaged due to high content of salt in the soils on the basin thus making crop production not viable. The lake is threatened by siltation as evidenced by gullies which have formed on some parts of surrounding areas. This may have occurred during the El Nino rains 1997/1998. However, the main cause of gulley formation may be livestock grazing as evidenced by the presence of large herds of cattle on this place and cattle tracks leading down the lake, and poor agronomic practices such as cultivation along the slopes without erosion control.

2. Land Tenure System
According to official records and the local people, the land surrounding the lake has been demarcated and allocated to people. A large part of the swampy area has been allocated leaving only the lake and the immediate surrounding area. However most residents are squatters.

3. Livelihood systems
In general, the living standards of the local community is quite, if not, very low. This is clearly indicated by the poor housing conditions, school-age children not attending school and low productivity or poor state of the farms among others. Poverty is generally high.

a) Farming systems
Farm sizes generally range from 0.5 to 10 acres, with a few having over 20 acres among the squatters. The people practice subsistence type of farming. Crops grown include maize, cassava and cowpeas. Some fruit tress were also observed on few farms and include mango, cashew-nut and bananas.

Agronomic practices are generally poor as planting of 4-6 seeds in one hole, haphazard planting, poor digging implements, cultivation on slopes without any conservation measures in place, land clearance using fire or burning of trash and others. Harvests are generally reported to last a family 1-2 months (low food security)

b) Fishing
Fishing take place when there's water. Tilapia (Makumba), mudfish (mtonzi) and Milk fish (Mborode) are some of the fish that are caught. The general income from fishing activities averages 300/- per person per day. Fish are generally sold within the area and surrounding shopping centers with few finding their way to Malindi and Gede through middlemen. The number of people who depend on the lake for fish was reported as 70% of the population in the area.

The elderly people reported that the fish catch used to be high in the past years. This was attributed to the existence of council of elders who used to take care of the lake. This was through traditional rules, norms and standards which are no longer practiced. Certain practices or activities were not allowed and if one transgressed, there were penalties attached.

c) Eco-tourism
Lake Chem Chem attracts many bird watchers particularly of the water birds when it has water. Most tourists for bird watching come from Malindi hotels and Arabuko Forest Station. Despite all this, few people from the area benefit from eco-tourism activities.

d) Environmental Conservation
There is very little environmental conservation taking place in the area. Alisei has attempted to plant trees using catchment approach around the lake. Lmargo farm is also trying to educate the locals not to cut trees. People are still clearing the natural vegetation to create farms, which will only be productive in the first few harvests. This however appears to have very little impact. The seriously affected areas are characterized by tunneling which later become gullies when their roofs collapse.

This year's World Wetlands Day was targeting efforts to salvage Lake Chem Chem first by creating awareness and planting trees around the lake. This time round the lake was dry and the whole area was hit by drought. The organizing committee therefore identified Kwa Upanga Primary School. In this school 80 seedlings were planted as a demonstration on what should be done at the lake as rains come. This gives a challenge to the organizers, as a follow-up must be made in order to salvage the lake.


The following recommendations have been made to reverse the current trends of environmental degradation so as to salvage the lake.

1. Lake status
a) Awareness and education aimed at forming environmental conservation groups composing of farmers, fishermen, bird watchers and others.
b) Opening of the blocked Kwa Bibi water way.
c) Protection of the two water springs in the area by constructing water troughs for livestock and a place for fetching water for domestic purposes.
d) Desiltation of the lake basin where possible
e) Introduction of appropriate lake shore plant species to act as sediment traps and generally reduce evaporation from the surface water by checking wind speeds.
f) Improve fishing method through gear exchange.

2. Land Tenure
a) Change of attitude of the squatters such that they put efforts to carry out conservation measures on the area they are farming.
b) Creation of awareness on the need to conserve Lake Chem Chem and better land husbandry.

3. Livelihood systems
--- Farming Systems
a) Rehabilitation of degraded/eroded areas by putting soil conservation measures
b) Training farmers in soil fertility improvement like fallow systems, mixed planting and agro-forestry techniques
c) Training in proper agronomic practices

--- Fishing
a) Training fishnet-making for local fishermen
b) Awareness creation on suitable fishing methods and techniques
c) Formation of fishing groups that would help enforce the use of proper fishing techniques
d) Fishing gear exchange assistance

--- Alternative income-generation activities
This will help to reduce pressure on the current resources and this include
i. Eco-tourism
ii. Bee Keeping
iii. Fish Farming
iv. Irrigation scheme
v. Introduction of cash crops and their marketing

--- Environmental Conservation
The lakes' surrounding need to be conserved and protected from any form of degradation and where degraded, reclamation should be done. This is possible by
" Introduction of tree planting and soil conservation measures on farms
" Construction of gabions and check dams
" Awareness on environmental conservation through schools, local communities and institutions
" Training of the locational and sub-locational environmental committees in various aspects such as their roles and responsibilities, policy and laws governing environmental conservation etc


This years' World Wetlands Day serves as the first step through awareness that brought together the local community, school children, government institutions, non-government organizations and the local administration to salvage the lake.
However, this is the way forward;
1. Encouraging teamwork and networking between different organizations (government, non-government and civil society) operating in the area.
2. Encourage group work and strengthening of the local community for the purpose of conservation.
3. Promoting an interdisciplinary approach to carry out research and extension programme
4. Involving the local communities in identifying priorities, analyzing the problems and devising both short term and long term solutions. A participatory approach to development would be the most appropriate tool.
5. Promoting measures that are replicable and can easily be adopted by other people.

The chief guest (Dr. Balozi) addressing the WWD 2005 Participants.

The Senior Warden Mr. J. Kagwi planting a seedling during this years' WWD 2005.

Appendix 1

1. Kenya Wildlife Service
2. Eco-ethics International Kenya (Mombasa) Chapter
3. Kikambala Fish Station
4. Valentine Investiment company Mombasa Ltd.
5. Special Lofty Safaris
6. CDA/Integrated Coastal Area Management
7. Alisei
8. Arocha Kenya
9. Lmalgo farm
10. Nature Kenya/USAID

"There's wealth in wetland diversity
- don't lose it!"

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